NGOs flag merger of 1098 helpline in Karnataka
NGOs in the city told TNIE that they received around 1,000 calls a day from across Karnataka. These calls were made by children, relatives and sometimes activists.
BENGALURU: The child helpline number 1098 will be discontinued in less than a week. 1098, which is easy to remember for children as it’s in reverse numerical order making it quite convenient to call in times of crises. The helpline will be officially merged with 112 under the Ministry of Home Affairs and handled by the Karnataka police instead of the Child care NGOs. Though the government has proposed the move to be positive, experts in the sector worry that many sensitive cases might go unreported.
NGOs in the city told TNIE that they received around 1,000 calls a day from across Karnataka. These calls were made by children, relatives and sometimes activists. Chithra Anchan, Programme Director, Karnataka, Childline India Foundation (CIF), said, “Over the years, children have gotten used to calling 1098. Our staff is trained to build a rapport with them so that their problems can be addressed. With the government taking over, we’ll have to wait and see how sensitively they speak and how they act. The bridge created with children should not be impacted by the police authorities.”
Post June 19, calls made to 1098 will be forwarded to 112 directly and then from there automated option needs to be accessed. The caller has to press 1 for police help, 2 for traffic police, 3 for cyber police and 4 for inquiry.
Child Rights experts opined that with 112, people will be scared to report to the police. Vasudeva Sharma, Executive Director, Child Rights Trust (CRI), said, “When we receive calls from children, the helpline is accessible 24 x7 and hopefully the police are also able to do the same. There were many blank calls and NGOs made sure that the number is called back to check if everything is alright.”
With 112, it takes more than a minute or two to get through to the right person and that crucial time can be lost when children are around people and seeking help. Vasudev worries that this might miss the point of the helpline altogether. “There needs to be sensitisation of police personnel, extra care and effort is needed to deal with child abuse, labour and domestic case,” he added.
Cases of child labour
NGOs say that major cases of child labour in Karnataka are found in North Karnataka where children run away from their homes and land up in the city to find jobs. These children are identified by teams at railway stations and bus stands. There are many children landing from West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Rajasthan and other states.
Anjaneya, Collab Coordinator at Association for Promoting Social Action (APSA), said, “Every day, we get around 130 calls through the helpline in the city for domestic cases. We make sure we help them every step of the way, from emergency services to rehabilitation centres. Now with the merger, we are worried that it might not be as effective.”
About a recent case, Anjaneya explained how two young girls between the ages of 12 and 15 were rescued in Whitefield last month. “These girls were in Bengaluru from Odisha, working as house helps.” In such cases, the minors are not allowed to leave their houses and most cases go unreported. They are detected only when someone alerts the NGOs.