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India makes panic key a must for all mobiles from next year

A trial 5G service will be rolled out in 2017 and a fully commercial service in December 2020. Photo/ AFP FILE

No cell phones can be sold without the provision for panic button from January 1, 2017/ AFP FILE

NEW DELHI, India, Apr 26 – All mobile phones sold in India will have to have a panic button from the start of next year, an official said Tuesday, as the country grapples with large numbers of sex crimes against women.

The button would allow users to call emergency services by pressing a single key on their phone, a telecommunications ministry official told AFP.

“No cell phones can be sold without the provision for panic button from January 1, 2017,” he said, requesting anonymity.

The ministry said it was also making inbuilt GPS compulsory from January 1, 2018.

“Technology is solely meant to make human life better and what better than using it for the security of women,” telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said late Monday.

India has struggled to curb high levels of sexual violence, a problem that shot to global prominence with the fatal gang rape of a student in Delhi in December 2012 as she returned home from the cinema.

That incident led to an overhaul of India’s rape laws including speeding up of trials and tougher penalties for offenders, but high numbers of assaults persist.

The latest official figures show 36,735 rapes were reported across the country in 2014, although activists say the actual number is likely much higher with many crimes going unreported due to the social stigma they attract.

India is the world’s second-largest mobile market and notched up its billionth mobile phone subscriber in October, according to the country’s telecoms regulator.

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