Aimed at women’s safety, the measure will also include a provision for the installation of a GPS navigation system from January 1, 2018, so as to accurately track the location of the person in crisis.
"Technology is solely meant to make human life better and what better than using it for the security of women ... from January 1, 2017, no cell phone can be sold without a provision for a panic button, and from January 1, 2018, mobile sets should also have GPS built in," said telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.
The Indian government has ordered the move through an official notification dated April 22. "With effect from January 1, 2017, no mobile phone handset company shall sell in India ... feature phones without the facility of a panic button by pressing 'Numeric key - 5' or 'Numeric key - 9' to invoke an emergency call," the notification said. It added that no smartphone should be sold in India without the facility of the emergency call button. This button, on being pressed for a long time, should invoke an emergency call, as would the existing power button, when short pressed thrice in quick succession.
Rights activist Jasmeen Patheja, however, feels a panic button is not a solution because it sits within a "protectionist" attitude.