July 8, 2008
108 May Be National Emergency Helpline
By Kounteya Sinha
NEW DELHI: The number 108 could soon become India's version of 911 - the number the US dials for an emergency.
After negotiations for almost a year, telecom minister A Raja has indicated in a letter to health minister Anbumani
Ramadoss last week that 108 is being finalized as the national toll-free trauma care number.
Confirming this, Ramadoss told TOI: "I have just received an official communication from Raja. I am optimistic that 108, which is currently being used by states individually as their emergency response number, will soon be made the national trauma care number."
Three states - Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Uttarakhand - are already using 108 as the emergency toll-free number. Three others - Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and MP - recently signed an MoU with the Emergency Management and Research Institute for this purpose. States like J&K, Assam and Kerala too are finalizing plans for designating 108 for all emergency purposes.
"Once a caller dials 108, a 24-hour call centre will receive the information, locate an ambulance closest to the emergency spot through GPRS technology and dispatch it within the golden hour," a health ministry official said.
"We will soon circulate the final concept note of the National Medical Emergency and Response Services and take it to the Expenditures Finance Committee for approval. It will then be presented to the Cabinet. Raja has said that since states have already started using 108 as an emergency number, making it the national toll-free number would help people remember it," the official added.
Ramadoss said the Centre has already sanctioned Rs 732 crore for the National Emergency and Trauma Care Programme, which was cleared by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs on December 13.
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