Chennai, India, May 2022 - With the government announcing its plans to merge the country’s only dedicated helpline for children — Childline 1098 — with the emergency helpline 112 under the ambit of the Ministry of Home Affairs, many stakeholders are, understandably, in distress. Such is the scope of work at what’s considered among the country’s largest emergency response systems, one that handles 50 lakh calls annually. Based on Union Minister Smriti Irani’s statements from last year, the main cause for concern is the direct involvement of the police in handling calls that are now being attended to by social workers.
In the words of children
Virgil D Sami, executive director of Arunodhaya (a Childline partner), points out that this is a concern raised by the primary stakeholder — the children themselves. "Childline has been established as a very helpful line for children, who have been using it regularly.
"They (the children) are always held at fault. In that case, how far will the police take the complaints of the children? Also, will the parents be willing to go to the police? When they take up cases of child abuse or child missing, the immediate reaction of the police is ‘Ava engayavathu poyirupa. Why do you want to make this public? Only your child’s name will be spoiled.’ It’s not the same with Childline," she explains.
Besides these calls of distress that require careful counselling and relief, Childline also receives help regarding shelter, education and such. There are silent calls, which need extended exchange and trust-building to take to the next step. How much can police personnel help with these needs, questions Virgil.
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The integration of the helplines could allow for better handling of data and better digitisation of the same, notes Sudha. Smriti Irani’s original statement listed the preservation of data sensitivity as one reason for the decision. This is what Vidya Reddy takes objection to. "Please qualify the claim for right now Childline data is off anybody’s scrutiny. They are very, very careful about it," she reasons. Speculating that the work of this helpline is likely to be outsourced, you might as well outsource it to Childline, she suggests. "It (Childline’s calls) is going to be handled by MHA.
Now, the question is whether MHA is going to devote a whole bunch of police personnel to answer these calls or hire more people or outsource it. If it’s the third, why not outsource it to Childline. To me, this is all a red herring to the fact that they don’t want data to be known that children are having problems," she reasons,
Besides calls of distress that require careful counselling and relief, Childline also receives help regarding shelter and education. There are also silent calls which need trust-building.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
About CHILDLINE India Foundation:
Childline India Foundation is a non-government organisation (NGO) in India that operates a telephone helpline called Childline, for children in distress. It was India's first 24-hour, toll free, phone outreach service for children. Based in Mumbai, it helps the homeless children. It also helps the children who are poor and who cannot go to school. It give those children education. They collect money from people and they use the money to help these children. Child line number is - 1098. The childline received average two million calls in a year, most from children wanting to rescued from their place of work. India as per 2001 census of India has over 12.7 million working children between of age of five to 14 years.
About Ministry of Home Affairs:
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) or Home Ministry is a ministry of the Government of India. An interior ministry, it is mainly responsible for the maintenance of internal security and domestic policy.
Published: Tuesday, May 3, 2022
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