KOCHI: At a time when an increasing number of child abuse cases are reported in the State, the move to centralise the helpline numbers of Childline has raised several eyebrows.
From now onwards, calls made from all the South Indian states - Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil nadu - will be directed to Chennai. The new system has, however, perplexed the Childline authorities and social activists in the State as it would be difficult for the staff in Chennai to identify the areas referred by callers in faraway districts, especially in the other states.
“Will the Chennai staff know every pocket road in the district? Let this not become a big bottleneck as the active participation of the Childline has saved several children. The number of child beggars has been reduced to a great extent. But, now the State is witnessing an unprecedented increase in the number of child abuse cases. This move is likely to restrict the accessibility of the public to Childline, said social activist Murugan S, who is also secretary of NGO Theruvuvelicham. “Around one year ago, calls made from all the districts in the State were directed to the Thiruvananthapuram centre. Even that had hassles. The line often got jammed due to the flurry of calls,” he said. Childline sources said that the strength of the teams, which consisted of seven members and three volunteers, has been reduced now. “It has become a strenuous task to track the events with the limited staff. We have been instructed to finish every duty in the day, and during emergencies, the police will be roped in. We do not know how effectively it will work. Besides, we are yet to get official intimation in this regard. We are already overburdened, and this sudden change came in the middle of this confusion,” said a Childline official on condition of anonymity. “Besides, when I test-dialled the Childline number, I was asked to speak in English as the staff who answered the call was a Kannada-native,” he added.
Though the Childline authorities were intimated that the centralised system would be operational from November 10, due to some inconvenience, it has been postponed. They are yet to be informed the new date. But, when ‘Express’ contacted 1098 (the Childline number), the staff in Chennai said that the centralised system had come into effect on Monday. Childline India Foundation Kerala in-charge Manoj said that there was nothing to panic as similar systems had been running efficiently in Mumbai and Delhi for more than five years. “Once we get the call, it will be directed to the respective districts within seconds. The system is fully computerised. We have just started the system, and it is too early to comment on its performance. Let’s look at this facility without any prejudice,” he added.
Help Now a far cry
From now onwards, calls made from all the South Indian states - Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil nadu - to the childline number will be directed to Chennai.