A few years back I was in UAE to attend an international seminar. During the seminar, I met an Indian IT magazine Editor, Ajit Solankar who had come from Mumbai (India) to attend the same seminar for his journal. Since both of us were staying in the same hotel as the accommodation for the participants was provided by the organizing hosts of the seminar, I and Ajit Solankar, became quite close to each other. We started frequenting in the hotel lobby and also going out to markets for shopping etc. During all these free moments, Ajit, very proudly and very passionately, continued to update me about the achievements that India was making in the direction of IT. He told me that with immense advancement in the field of IT, India had minimized the use of human resources for daily matters. Ajit was much proud of the arrival of computerized telephonic conversation apps that his company launched all over India and which had made things very easy for the callers, seeking different information from different organizations. “We feed all the relevant information into the app and give different dialing options to the callers to retrieve the required info. See! This development alone is not only saving a lot of time of people who had to visit these offices for the required information but it has also reduced the work load on the office workers while the concept of having telephone operators is almost vanishing”, Ajit informed me with a great excitement, seeking admiration in his eyes, from me. Though, by that time I had become so sick of his IT achievement narrations by India as during these moments, I wanted to have some other topics for discussion, after being too tired of having IT discussion throughout the day in the seminar, yet, I, very generously admired this achievement of Indian IT sector.
On the last day of the week-long seminar, Ajit came to me, outside the auditorium of the hotel where seminar was going on. He was looking very disturbed and in a state of panic. He asked me if I could lend him my mobile phone as he was in an emergency to make a call. I could see his mobile set in his hand and became little doubtful. I wondered why he was asking me to lend him my phone while his phone was already with him and I could see his phone being in order as it was powered on. With this, I got a bit suspicious and sort of hesitant in handing over my personal mobile phone to an Indian. As I am always very cautious while dealing with Indians, I, in a blink of an eye developed a hunch as if Ajit was going to use my phone to make some dubious call to put me in some trouble. Perhaps Ajit realized my hesitation too and said that he had lost his passport and wanted to seek his Embassy’s help but he was running out of credit in his mobile phone to make this call and said that he will be making the call right in front of me so I did not need to worry. I felt a bit embarrassed after Ajit’s straightaway anticipation of my thoughts and thus without wasting any further time, I very politely handed him over my mobile handset. Ajit dialed a number from my phone and then kept pressing different digit at later glued to phone without talking. He did this exercise a couple of times and that, in a very agitated state of mind, he returned me my phone and said, “This shit is happening to me for the last 40 minutes or so and that is how I have lost all my credit that was available in my phone and now I don’t want to waste yours. I will go myself now all the way to my Embassy”. I asked him that what was wrong with the embassy phone. He told me that soon after he found that he had lost his passport. He called back his organization in India and his head office advised him to immediately contact the Indian Embassy in the host country and report the matter to them and seek their help. For the purpose, his head office gave him the phone numbers of the Indian Embassy. He said he was calling on the Indian embassy’s phone number but there was a haul of options being given by the auto phone answering machine that included the options of choosing the language for conversation to the nature of information required etc and in the end the auto answering app was telling him to wait as his call was being transferred to the concerned section but there was no response and in the process, he lost all his available balance in the phone and now He had decided to physically approach the embassy, without wasting further time and without wasting my phone credit too. “these Embassy walas bhee naa” ( these Embassy people are……) Ajit said in the end. When Ajit was narrating this entire episode to me, I was thinking of asking Ajit that how he was feeling with this situation that aroused out of technical advancement in IT by India. But I kept quite as I was fully aware of the nature of his emergency. However, learning this, I straightaway got the Pakistani Embassy’s number from the internet and called that number to check that how Pakistani Embassy would react if I get into a similar trouble. I found that Pakistan Embassy telephonic setup was not high tech like that of Indians’. It was very desi and orthodox type as the call was received by a telephone operator and I was asked whom I needed to talk to and upon my request, my call was transferred manually to Consular, Consular Affairs office and I had a little chat with him. I left the hotel lobby for a nearby ice cream parlor of Haagen-Dazs, wondering was Ajit’s Embassy, with great IT advancement more helpful to assistance seekers or was it mine, with old and orthodox setup?
However, just last month, I was reminded of the Ajit episode by an advertisement, released by the Government of Pakistan. The advertisement was about Pakistan government’s introducing of an emergency phone helpline for general public to report any incident of terror or any suspected activity in this regard to seek immediate help from the government. For a moment, I thought that since such a service is being introduced in the era of 2015, it must have been established in some very hi-fi technical manner, using technical advancement that our neighbors are too proud of. So I checked it out but found it to be very simple like the one that I experienced at Pakistan Embassy in the UAE, a few years back, after the Ajit episode. It was very simple, yet effective but there was no glamorous automated voice of a female as an app and the process was just simple.
At this point I imagined that the way Ajit Solankar briefed me about the high pace of IT developments taking place in India and the way he was feeling proud of automated telephonic conversation system, replacing the orthodox setups, India must be in highly advanced stages by today. I imagined that If Indian government forms an official telephone helpline for its citizens across India; it could never be less than as it goes below here.
Thank you very much for calling at Government of India’s emergency helpline for citizens. We appreciate your confidence in your government and its rescue agencies. Our maximum response time to your emergency is ten minutes that is less than any other similar service to ours across the world. Such emergency services are not provided free of cost anywhere in the world but the government of India has arranged it free of cost. However, your call will be charged @ Rs. 10 plus government taxes as these charges would get to government’s funds for running these emergency services. Pay your taxes honestly to enable government to serve you honestly.
For further information in language of your choice;
For Punjabi, Please Press 1
For Marathi, Please Press 2
For Gujarati, Please Press 3
For Madrasi, Please Press 4
For Rajasthani, Please Press 5
For Asamiya , P1lease Press 6
For Bengali, Please Press 7
For Sanskrit, Please Press 8
For English, Please Press 9
For Hindi, Please Press 0
We are sorry for not being able to offer you further language options as the option service is only available in single digit
Your help will help us, helping you accordingly.Sso if you think the suspect, you presently feel threatened from, is
A Bodo insurgent of Bodoland Movement, Please Press 1
For Naxal insurgent of Chattishgarh, Please Press 2
For ULFA insurgent of Assam, Please Press 3
For Sikh Freedom Fighter of Khalistan, Please Press 4
For a Manipur insurgent, Please Press 5
For a Mizoram insurgent, Please Press 6
For a Nagalim insurgent of Nagaland, Please Press 7
For a Tripuri insurgent of Tripura, Please Press 8
For a fundamentalist militant of Shiv Sena, Please Press 9
For an extremist from Sangh Parivar, including those from RSS, BJP, VHP etc, Please Press 0
We are sorry for not being able to give you further options in this category due to single digit service limitations
Next is description of threat
Description is very vital. Your description of threatening weapon possessed by suspect would help us immensely in sending rescue teams accordingly. So if you see that the suspect is going to use;
A Dagger or knife, Please Press 1
For a Sword, Trishul or axe, Please Press 2
For Manual, small arm weapon, Please Press 3
For Semi-automatic weapon, Please Press 4
For Fully Automatic weapon, Please Press 5
For Highly sophisticated weapon, Please Press 6
For a Hand-Grenade, Please Press 7
For RDX-based explosive material, Please Press 8
For Plastic bomb or related explosive, Please Press 9
For Patrol bomb or acid, Please Press 0
We have, by now, reached the limits of our response time. We expect that by now, either you or the suspect has achieved the goal. In that case, why to waste government’s resources?. However, if you still need some assistance, please contact your nearest police station. Please do remember that in this moment of crisis, when you needed your government to remain comprehensively engaged with you and stand with you, your government came exactly up to your expectations and remained thoroughly engaged with you through this phone Helpline.
Thank you very much for calling and reposing your confidence in Modi Sarkar. Bye, Bye
After this conclusion, I got the answer that remained unanswered at UAE after the Ajit episode and I can now say that in comparison to such a technical advancement, orthodox and even obsolete phone service or helpline is however much better. I came with the conclusion that some areas in our lives even today, very strongly need personalized human attention and not the automated ones.
Ah! One thing I forgot to mention here. That is that while Dear Ajit had gone to his Embassy, I started checking out from the hotel. While I was finalizing the things at hotle’s Front Office, someone from the House Keeping staff approached me and said “Sir, I am sorry to bother you but I guess you left this passport of yours in the room”. I thanked her, took the passport and handed it over to the Front Office Manager and said “Mr. Manager, this passport is not mine; this belongs to Mr. Ajit Solankar. I don’t know how it reached my room. Maybe he forgot it there when he came for a cup of coffee to my room last night. He has gone to his embassy. He will be back soon. Please hand it over to him with my compliments, upon his return. Please do inform him that his lost passport is found. You cannot call him on his mobile phone because he is unable receive the call due to no credit in his phone account. But please do not try to reach him via his Embassy phone network because in that case you will not be able to reach him at least today. Better send someone to him”.
I never heard from Ajit again till to date, though, via an inquiry from the hotel by me that I made from the departure lounge of the airport, I came to know that Mr. Ajir was approached by hotel management and his passport was handed over to him by the time I was checking in for my flight. (Courtesy: Monthly Hilal)
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The 2018 Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) annual conference is scheduled for April 8 to 11 in Boao, Hainan Province. The forum will be themed "An Open and Innovative Asia for a World of Greater Prosperity."
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