Cannot dial emergency number 100 on Idea Cellular prepaid

Idea Cellular tom-toms it’s ‘ideas’ through multi-crore advertising campaigns. If only the agency that devised those ideas had also added some commonsense for their client at a nominal charge.

It appears that you cannot dial the emergency number 100 (Police Control Room number) from a prepaid Idea connection, as my wife unpleasantly discovered when she had to make such a call.

On Friday, Varsha (the Chaiwali) was robbed on her way to work. She was on her two-wheeler and three miscreants on a motorbike forced her off the road (which is quite busy even early in the morning) and snatched her chain and a bangle. She tried her best to ward them off, but couldn’t for long. Her first instinctive reaction was to dial 100 – the emergency number to contact the Police Control Room. And the pre-recorded female voice on the other end, read out an oxymoron of a message:

The dialled number is incorrect. Please dial 100 for police.

Dial 100 and they tell you the number is incorrect and then ask you to dial the same number again! Idea’s infinite loop idea.

She tried a number of other combinations, such as appending the STD code before the number, but no avail. Had she been able to contact the police on time, chances are the criminals could’ve been nabbed. Had it been a graver emergency, someone with an Idea prepaid connection would’ve been left in the lurch.

Both of us are Idea subscribers for 10 years. I have a postpaid connection and she’s on prepaid. Curiously, dialling 100 seems to work from my Idea postpaid number. Wonder what wrong have Idea prepaid customers done?

I called up the Idea customer care and the executive insisted that it could’ve been a problem with a single number. A problem with a single number to contact emergency services? What? Why? I would like Idea to unravel this mystery.

It is the norm that users should be able to contact emergency even when there is no SIM inserted or when in a different operator zone.

I am yet to study the guidelines and laws governing access to emergency numbers in India (if they exist) and what penalties are in store for a mobile service provider for failing to do so. Meanwhile I will write to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and also seek an official explanation from Idea Cellular for this serious lapse.

Thankfully mobile number portability (MNP) is in place and both of us are thinking to move away from a service provider which cannot even provide access to something as important and basic as emergency numbers leave alone acceptable network strength on our 12th floor apartment.

We never checked for things, such as access to emergency numbers, that we took as granted before choosing a mobile network. But after this experience I would. You too should.

An Idea can change your life.