Citizens let down as distress number 112 doesn’t work

City Governance Safety Tech

Karnataka cities not integrated with it yet: Cops

The universal emergency number, 112, is useless during emergencies because calls to it get disconnected. Police say Karnataka’s cities have not been integrated with the new number.

The number was introduced in November 2019 to replace emergency helpline numbers like 100 for police, 101 for fire brigade, 108 for ambulance and 1091 for women helpline.

Brinda Adige, a women’s rights activist, said: “If the distress number does not help a woman during an emergency, what is the use of it? A helpline number is almost like electronic handholding. If civil society is not a part of this helpline, then what is it for? The police control room number 100 was not very efficient earlier.” 

“While dialing 100, it takes more than 40 seconds for the call to connect to a police official. When 112 is dialled, it doesn’t connect. All technical glitches should be set right immediately as these are numbers that people call during emergencies and distress,” Adige added.

The Observer conducted a survey to check whether 112 was functioning. All the six persons it requested to call the number said their calls got disconnected. Also, many people do not know that 112 has been introduced as an emergency number.

Prajitha P, a college student who tried calling the number, was shocked to see that the call ended immediately. “I don’t know that this is an emergency number. It is usually 108 and 100 that we use when in an emergency. This number does not connect. It is the responsibility of the respective department to resolve the issue.”

Manohar L, an autorickshaw driver, said: “The emergency number should always work. People will not dial the number unnecessarily. They will dial when they are in an emergency situation. People who dial it will be at a loss.”

Mamta Srinivasan, a bank employee, was confused when she dialled the number. “What is the use of an emergency number if it does not work? The police should make the number accessible to the public.”

During the launch of the number, it was announced that when a call is received at the 112 control room, an operator will note the complaint of the caller and assign the caller to the department concerned.

Admitting that there are glitches in the 112 emergency number, additional commissioner of police K Ajay Kumar said: “In four cities, including Bengaluru, the helpline number 100 continues to be used. With a sudden change in the number, and with lack of awareness, people do not know about it.  We are still working to facilitate the number to people in a better way.”

Bengaluru, Karwar, Mysuru, Kalaburagi and Mangaluru have not yet completely merged with 112 because of technical issues.  “It will take a few more years for us to merge the numbers in cities in Karnataka,” he said.

The Observer tried to contact Emergency Management Research Institute (EMRI) but couldn’t reach them.

Emergency helpline numbers like 100 for police, 101 for fire brigade, 108 for ambulance and 1091 for women helpline was replaced by 112 in November 2019. It was launched by chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa at a function in the communication, logistics and modernisation wing of the police department.

This concept of having a single number for multiple emergency services is based on the 911 universal emergency number in use in the US. It was first launched in Himachal Pradesh in November 2018. 

This emergency helpline number was launched on February 19, 2019, by then Union home minister Rajnath Singh.

In October 2019, The Quint reported that a man in Hyderabad dialed 112 to register a complaint but there was no response from the other side. 


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