Mumbai: 24-hour helpline for women open for only 8 hours!
Women in Mumbai, heads up! If you are in distress, do not dial 181.
As per the 2014 National Crime Record Bureau data, Mumbai has one of the highest crime cases against women. Yet the centralised helpline number 181, constituted to rescue women and provide them with counselling is running only for eight hours, instead of the prescribed 24 hours.
The helpline runs from 10 am to 6 pm, a fact verified by the mid-day reporter. The women and child development department of the state government, however says that a contract was given to a private agency to run it for 24 hours.
“We selected an agency through our IT department and gave them a contract to run the helpline for 24 hours. In fact, the agreement states that itself,” said an officer of the department, on condition of anonymity.
The deputy secretary of the department Mahendra Hazare confirmed this, emphasising that an enquiry will be initiated.
All the one-stop crisis centres are supposed to be connected with the helpline number, but in Mumbai, this is clearly not the case.
One of the doctors, who is closely associated with the one-stop crisis centre at KEM hospital, said that the place is not connected with the centralised women helpline number.
“We know that the helpline needs to be connected with all the centres, but it hasn’t been implemented yet; neither in this hospital nor in any other centre in Mumbai,” added the doctor, on condition of anonymity
What is 181?
An “universal helpline” that is supposed to run 24 hours. It was announced by the Central government in 2013. The number was made available in Mumbai in 2014. After allocation of the emergency number, the state governments were required to set up their call centres. The number was released after uproar following the brutal gang rape of a 23-year old paramedic student in the national capital.
Ujjwala Kadrekar, senior programme officer, NGO Women’s Rights Initiative said, “As per the guidelines, the counsellors are supposed to be properly trained but in Mumbai, they aren’t given any training. They do not even have proper sitting arrangements.”
Kadrekar, one of the capacity building coordinators for the counsellors and members of the helpline in Gujarat and Delhi, lost enthusiasm to work for Mumbai because of its slow pace.
Reporter’s call to 181
4 pm: call centre received
6.30pm: not received
7.30pm: not received
11.30pm: not received