Do panic buttons help? BMTC is not so sure

Surupasree Sarmmah, DH News Service Mar 10 2018, 12:20 IST
BMTC buses are already being tracked on GPS. It is working on an SOS feature on its app.

Public vehicles must be equipped with GPS tracking from April 1, according to a government directive. The Centre's road transport ministry is also talking about mandatory panic buttons.

The safety features regulations cover buses and cabs, and exempt autos and e-rickshaws, considered safer as they are partly open.

V Ponnuraj, MD, BMTC, says the entire fleet of 6,524 BMTC buses has GPS tracking in place.

"We don't particularly favour the idea of physical panic buttons. If a woman is in danger and she presses the panic button, it might trigger frustration in the attacker and instigate him further," he says.

As of now, 100 BMTC buses have panic buttons. The BMTC app is working on an SOS feature for its app, he told Metrolife.

Cab situation
With just three weeks to go for the deadline, Ola Cabs didn't respond to questions about whether it was installing panic buttons.

Uber said it supports the government's initiative and would spread awareness among its driver-partners to instal panic buttons.

"Uber will work with the Central and state governments to spread awareness about the requirement of GPS and panic buttons," a spokesperson says.

Kolkata has seen partial success in implementing the rule. In January, passengers reported seeing red panic buttons in some Uber cabs, according to The Telegraph.

When the button is pressed, a siren goes off. It stops only when the bonnet is opened, a driver told the newspaper.

Passengers welcome the regulations, but with reservations. "Given the corruption and poor monitoring in India, implementation is not easy. Some people might misuse panic buttons and annoy others," says Peggy Christophia, clinical data co-ordinator and regular cab user.

Agnes V, a classical dancer, is sceptical. "How is it going to benefit people in a system that is so corrupt?" she wonders. "But if the move can save even one life, it definitely worth it."

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