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All phones in India to be equipped with panic buttons from 2017

The country's government is hoping to lower the rate of violence against women with phones kitted out with panic buttons and GPS.

Samsung, the country's top vendor, will have to install panic buttons on the smartphones it sells in India.
Juan Garzón/CNET

There were 337,922 crimes against women reported in India in 2014. That's over 900 crimes a day, or around one every two minutes.

The country's government hopes to battle this problem with technology. Officials announced on Monday that all mobile phones sold in the country from January 2017 will need to be kitted out with a panic button feature, Reuters reports.

The function will be activated on smartphones by pressing the power button three times. For feature phones, still popular in the country, the user will need to hold either the 5 or 9 key. Starting January of 2018, all phones will be required to house a GPS system as well.

"Technology is solely meant to make human life better and what better (use) than...for the secrurity of women," a statement from the government read.

The 337,922 reports of crimes against women in 2014 represented a 9.2 percent increase from the year before, according to India's National Crime Records Bureau. Crimes with the greatest incidence were assault on women with intent to outrage her modesty, kidnapping and abduction, and rape.

The country has seen massive growth in its smartphone industry over the last few years, having become the world's second biggest market, behind China. This is means that there are more phones in the country than ever, but Pankaj Mohindroo, president of the Indian Cellular Association, says the new measures will impede poorer Indians from accessing phones.

In a letter to telecom secretary JS Deepak, Mohindroo said that forcing GPS to be in all phones "will not be in the interest of consumers at the bottom of the pyramid," reports the Economic Times.

The Association says that installing a GPS in a handset will increase the cost to consumers between 266 and 400 rupees ($4-$6), which is a problem when you consider the average wage in the country is around 270 rupees a day.