Finding help in India
Throwing yourself into a new country with new laws, new customs and new languages is a thrilling experience, but it carries a fair amount of risk as well. Disasters and crime can happen be anything ranging from a flat tire to a theft, and each country has a different attitude toward each of these situations. In India, emergency services vary drastically in quality and response time across the urban-rural divide as well. Here’s a couple of pointers to help you contact the right people when you need them, and understand how to communicate your problems effectively and efficiently.
- Keep your consulate on speed dial, they’re always your safest option. They’ll understand where you’re coming from and your own cultural understanding of certain events such as gender rights or medical conditions
- Carry medication you feel may be required at your destination. If you’re heading to tightly packed cities, carry a mask and inhaler, if you’re holidaying by the sea take glucose and insect repellent
- Always have the number of a good private hospital at your destination at hand. If you can find their dedicated ambulance number, that’s even better
- In case of a criminal altercation be aware of your rights
- Get a functional internet pack on your phone. I cannot stress enough the importance of internet connectivity in such situations. While India does have an emergency number system, you need to be able to access further options as well, depending on your personal situation. Most travellers tend to be dependent on the Wi-Fi at their hostels or hotels, but you need something full time.
Even in big cities, private hospitals are almost always a safer bet in terms of available technology and quality of care. Ask at your hotel or hostel for the number or dedicated ambulance service number of a good hospital nearby and save it.
Often ambulances aren’t even worth waiting for since traffic congestion and our lack of respect for ambulance sirens means they don’t have any distinct advantage over regular transportation besides first aid, so if you’re in a tearing hurry, jump into the nearest cab or hail down a passing car. You’ll find strangers are often happy to help.
If none of these work for you, or you’re in an area with top-notch government services, dial 102 for an ambulance.
A lot of the time a medical emergency could be a lack of available medication at the right time, in which case, just do a quick internet search for the nearest 24 hour pharmacy. There’s more than enough of them, particularly in urban areas and they’re well stocked.
Not to put down my country, which I love, but for your own safety it’s best to know that except for a few pockets of super-urban areas, the local police can be quite unreliable. There is an emergency number 100, and we also have the blanket emergency number 108, but response times can vary from 7 minutes to an hour. A low cop to citizen ratio means they’re spread pretty thin and this leads them to approach problems with a hardened cynicism. All complaints are wearily dismissed as a waste of time until you can prove otherwise. Your status as a foreign national can also affect the proceedings—either you’re heaped with scorn for “coming to this country and then dumping all your problems on us”, or at the opposite end, genuine care and concern twice that any local would receive, in deference to your foreign passport.
In case of a theft, registering a complaint is smooth, the police are old hands at this. In case of a sexual crime, go straight to the hospital and call the police to make sure they are at the hospital to oversee the treatment and direct doctors on how to handle evidence to give you a strong case. Always keep your tone respectful with the police, they’ll appreciate it and it’ll be to your own benefit.
In more rural areas, be alert, because a casual accusation can often snowball into lynch mobs and kangaroo courts well before the police arrive.
- Women and children, dial 1090 or 1091 regardless of the nature of your emergency. To report child abuse it’s 1098 (keep in mind though that child rearing practices here can be jarringly different from back home, a lot of practices that are perfectly acceptable in this country may seem strange or even barbaric to you).
- In case of domestic abuse and sexual violence: 181
- Suicide/crisis 24-hour helpline: (044) 2754 6669
- Anti-poison aid: 1066