News : Women Staff of 181 Helpline Left to Commute Alone at Night
New Delh, June 6, 2014 -- Providing assistance and verbal solace to women in distress seem to have become a risky job for the 20 women call attendants of the 181 helpline in the capital.
These women, who work round-the-clock to provide telephonic assistance to women in distress, have for the last six months been commuting without a police escort after finishing their night shift.
Khadijah Faruqui, lawyer and activist who heads the 181 helpline, said in January, Delhi Police withdrew the women constables who were assigned the duty of escorting these women back home. The Police Headquarters, in its latest communication to the helpline, has "refused to provide escorts owing to shortage of women constables to provide security to these women", Faruqui said.
She said the helpline, through deputy secretary, General Administration Department, has now asked the state government to "provide home guards instead".
Faruqui said, "Last month, the Police Headquarters wrote to additional secretary, CMO, and marked copy to me that they do not have enough staff to provide women constables for our cabs at night. We have sent the communication to the Home Department requesting them to provide home guards."
According to Faruqui, 181 had asked for police assistance since its inception in December 2012, following the December 16 gangrape. While security was provided "on-and-off by Southwest district police", Faruqui said the two cabs, which picked up and dropped the call attendants, had to first go to Kalkaji police station to pick up women constables.
"This continued until December 2013… Sometimes, the cabs had to go to Ambedkar Nagar police station to pick up constables. While we still have women chauffeurs, the Delhi Police is no longer giving us constables. We have written to police repeatedly in the past. They gave us the option of male constables, but we don’t want that. We understand that police have a genuine manpower shortage and that certain changes in law have resulted in them committing more women personnel to other duties," Faruqui said.
While no untoward incident has been reported so far, one of the 181 officials said on a few occasions, calls have been made from the car to the police control room. The women call attendants at 181 work in three shifts, one of which concludes at 12 am.
At any given point, there are three call takers, four supervisors and one IT personnel — all women — at the helpline. Many of these women travel to and from far-off places late at night. According to the data shared by the organisation, in just two months — April and May — 181 received 376 obscene calls. It is for this reason that the helpline is manned by a woman constable between 7 pm and 7 am — a practice which continues uninterrupted.
Meanwhile, the helpline, a brainchild of former chief minister Sheila Dikshit has so far received 8.82 lakh calls.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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The Delhi Police, is the main law and order agency for the National Capital Territory of Delhi (NCT). It does not have jurisdiction over the adjoining areas of the National Capital Region.
Published: Friday, June 6, 2014