National highway and expressway commuters face difficulties to reach for help in times of emergency.
BENGALURU: The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) helpline number, 1033 is not active 24/7, especially late at night and early in the morning.
Winnie Jasper, a student from Andhra University, who was commuting on the NH16 said, “My bike was punctured around 9:00 a.m., I tried calling the toll-free number on the hoardings, but no one responded from the other side.”
Recently, there have been three robbery cases on the Bengaluru-Mysuru expressway. In one of the cases, the victims were robbed at knife-point on March 13 at 1:30 a.m. between Devarahosahalli and Thittamaranahalli of Channapatna taluk in Ramanagara district. According to the news reports, the victims tried calling the NHAI helpline number and there was no response.
An NHAI official said, “Sometimes we might not respond, but we will definitely get back to the victim. We call the victim to check whether they got the requested services. And we penalize the employee at the call centre if they do not respond to a call.”
The official said that there are 500 employees in one of the call centers in New Delhi which receives around 20,000 calls per day. As the call center service is provided by a third party hired by the government, the official is not aware of the number of working NHAI call centers in India.
“The toll plaza might not respond to an emergency call if they are busy. Sometimes, there might not be any ambulances, cranes, or tow vehicles available at the nearest toll plaza of the victim,” the official said.
“The call center employee will connect me to a case if toll plazas do not respond to an emergency and I will call the nearest hospital or police station for assistance,” the official added.
Crime on NHs
The data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) show that in 2021, there have been 24,137 registered stolen property cases on national highways in India.
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The NHAI helpline number was launched to provide services for the safety of the highway commuters. The toll-free “1033” helpline number provides 24/7 assistance to road users on NHAI’s tolled stretches in case of emergency or non-emergency issues.
Recent reports show that the NHAI has deployed more than 900 ambulances at toll plazas on national highways of the country for possible emergencies. The ambulance facility has been provided at a gap of 50 kilometres on the highways. According to August 2021 records, there are 47 ambulances in each PIU (project implementation unit).
Sreehari M. N, a former professor of postgraduate studies for Highway Technology who currently works as the Chief Executive Officer for Consortia of Infrastructure Engineers and Intelligent Traffic Solutions said, “The commuters should call the state police in case of robbery, accident, or any other emergency, instead of calling the NHAI.”
“On the other hand, the NHAI helpline number may be engaged or dead sometimes, due to the number of calls received from around the country. So, the victims should call the state helpline number or the concerned jurisdiction in case of any emergency.”
The expert further added that the state government should make the phone numbers of the local police station and hospital available on the hoardings instead of the NHAI helpline numbers.
“This will help the police to take immediate action in any emergency cases,” he said.