Minister of Communications and Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad has signed an order mandating facility of a panic button and in-built global positioning system (GPS) from January 1, 2017, and January 1, 2018, respectively.
“Technology is solely meant to make human life better and what better than using it for the security of women, I have taken a decision that from January 1, 2017, no cell phone can be sold without a provision for panic button and from January 1, 2018, mobile sets should also have inbuilt GPS,” Prasad said.
The document signed by the minister said “feature phones without the facility of panic button by pressing Numeric key — 5 or Numeric key — 9 to invoke emergency call” shall not be sold in India.
“With effect from the January 1, 2018, no mobile phone handset manufactured (sic) company shall sell the new mobile phone handset in India without the facility of identifying the location through satellite based GPS,” the notification added.
A senior telecom ministry official said that this facility will in fact increase accountability of security forces in the country when women harassment cases occur. Ministry of Women and Child Development had last year asked all mobile phone manufacturers to work out the feasibility of such a feature.
“The phones will have a panic button which will be GPS-connected. We are in conversation with phone manufacturers and the proposal is likely to be executed in few months,” Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi had recently told PTI.
Reportedly, to roll out the plan, proceeds from the Nirbhaya fund set up by the UPA-government were to be used. Nirbhaya Fund was announced by the then finance minister P Chidambaram in the Union Budget to support initiatives by the government and NGOs working towards protecting the dignity and ensuring safety of women in India. The ministries of telecom, and women and child development had started working on the proposal to mandate the facilities of the panic button and GPS in December last year.