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News : Disaster Management: Government to Launch National Helpline
New Delhi, Sept 25, 2014 -- The government has decided to set up a dedicated three-digit helpline number for natural disasters and their management, learning from the Jammu & Kashmir experience where communication lines snapped following the floods and people had nowhere to call for help.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Telecom and Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad have agreed to work on setting up such a single helpline number after a meeting between the two ministers.
"It will be a 3-digit country-wide helpline number which any person affected by a natural disaster can call for help and rescue. All agencies like the armed forces, disaster management forces and state police will get details from such distress calls and can plan quick rescue action accordingly," a senior Home Ministry official told ET.
Prasad is said to have asked officials of his ministry to start work immediately on setting up the new helpline as this will also tide over the problem of the government having to set up fresh helpline numbers every time a major disaster takes place.
It has also been proposed that telephone towers be shifted to higher and safe locations in J&K to ensure they are not submerged in future. "But care has to be taken as hills in Jammu region are prone to landslides," an official said. Prasad later told reporters that concern was expressed at the meeting on the situation which emerged in J&K where the Centre and state could not communicate for almost three days as communication lines got submerged. "A core group has been constituted under the Ministry of Communication & Information Technology to submit a report within two months on suggestions for improving the communication network during disasters," Prasad said.
A Home Ministry statement said the participants narrated the difficulties they faced in communicating during the recent floods in Jammu & Kashmir and Uttarakhand's natural disaster last year.
"Rajnath Singh mentioned that we should set up a robust telecommunication system that would withstand natural disasters by a greater degree. He further said that the existing system can be further improved based on national and international experiences in such situations," a Home Ministry statement said. The Centre had to depend on high-frequency wireless systems and satellite phones to remain in touch with the state government as mobile signals blinked out.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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Published: Friday, September 26, 2014