Expanding the scope of 999 is a step in the right direction
For citizens to feel safe and secure, they need to know how to reach for help in the event of an emergency, and also have the knowledge that help will come promptly when needed.
The national emergency line 999, which was inaugurated back in 2017, provides a valuable and necessary service, by connecting people to police, fire, and ambulance services.
Now, Project Shetu, set up by Justice Vision Foundation (JVF) has been working with the national helpline in order to provide citizens with legal counselling, which is a truly laudable initiative.
Many citizens are simply not aware of their own rights, or of the legal nature of certain situations they find themselves in; availing the services of a lawyer can be expensive and inconvenient, especially for those who need legal advice without delay.
Under Project Shetu’s current initiative, callers asking for legal advice will be referred to one of the Project Shetu numbers, where over 200 lawyers are standing by to answer questions a caller may have.
Of course, screening is of the utmost importance; all calls must be vetted to make sure the caller’s problems are genuine; frivolous calls or fraudulent calls to the national helpline have been a problem in the past, which the emergency service is still working on controlling.
Bangladesh, in particular, needs a mechanism to address certain emergencies that may not clearly fall into the purview of police, fire services, or the ambulance; some of these are complaints related to domestic abuse, property disputes, and child marriage, and this is when legal counsellors can step in.
Expanding the scope of 999 is a step in the right direction, and this project should go a long way in ensuring the legal rights of all citizens.