Nearly a year after the infamous gangrape on a bus in Delhi, the Indian government is set to roll out GPS-linked panic buttons on public transport and a mobile app with a similar feature, reports The Times of India.
There are already some mobile apps available for women's safety, such as Damini and Fightback, to name a few. What makes this program different and unique is that it's the first time the Indian government is directly involved in the process. While further details regarding this panic app will be released soon, it's safe to assume that with the government's direct involvement, there will be coordination between local police control rooms and users.
As for public transport being equipped with GPS, this has been a long term goal and plan of the government, and already, the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) buses are equipped with both GPS and CCTV. Furthermore, Delhi Metro itself is as safe as it can be, also with CCTV and both plain clothes and uniformed officers at stations and on trains. The panic button will be found on all modes of public transport including buses, auto-rickshaws, across over the one million cities across the country.
What remains to be seen is how fast the response time would be, for example, by Delhi Police. Having lived in New Delhi for quite some time now, clearly, their presence is felt. Unfortunately, their response vehicles are not equipped with the latest technology. They don't have proper GPS units, and instead, are typically given a print out from the control room with the address or location. Furthermore, time and time again, I've seen Delhi Police officers in their vehicles asking others for directions to get somewhere. Perhaps the government should also invest resources into upgrading their equipment too. However, that would also involve more resources for both training and education.
In the meantime, perhaps the most positive step being taken is equipping the basic phones with a panic button itself. However, people who purchase devices with this panic button will need to know exactly what the button is for, and more importantly, how and when to use it. If, for example, pressing the panic button by accident all of a sudden results in police showing up at your location, for no apparent reason, that's also a waste of time and resources.
Furthermore, realistically speaking, how many people are also going to read the user's manual? Most likely very few will, but instead, more people will either experiment or accidently activate the panic button. This could end up being a headache instead of a solution, unless there is proper education for use of the panic button.