Help needed for helpline

Help needed for helpline

Help needed for helpline

The Bangalore City Police may have relaunched 1091, the Mahila Sahayavani number, with the promise of 24-hour help for women, but it looks like nothing has changed.

The staff of Mahila Sahayavani continue to shut shop at 6 pm and distress calls that come after 6 pm are redirected to the police control room, where the staff is not trained to handle the calls. Ironically, the helpline staff themselves are helpless in the face of lax security on their premises.

Women in the City, who tried calling the existing helpline, confess that it cannot be relied upon. While getting to the helpline is a task in itself, it does not work after 6 pm.

Rani Shetty, coordinator of Mahila Sahayavani, cites lack of proper security in the
office, which is housed in Shivajinagar Bus Stand as the reason for the early closure of the office.

“Our office is in Shivajinagar Bus Stand and the place is virtually deserted after dusk. There’s no security and most of our staff are women. We need to take care of our security as well. We will work in shifts only after we move to the new office on Infantry Road.” Citing her own experience, Rani says, “The existing office doesn’t even have basic facilities, like a proper toilet.”

Rani claims the helpline has solved 76 cases from January this year. There are seven Abhaya vans, especially to patrol the City and rush to the spots in case of any emergency.

“The City has been divided into seven segments (north, east, south, west, central, north-east and south-east). These vans have one driver and four female constables
to attend to women-related cases across the City,” she points out.  
There are other women helplines run by NGOs like Janodaya Trust, that runs Santhwana.
“We don’t get as many calls because we deal with the problems of poor women who need legal help and counselling. We get an average of five calls a day and more than telephone counselling, we intervene and help people in mutual settlement of disputes and problems,” says Santosh Vas, chairperson, Janodaya Trust. 

Women feel that not enough is being done to popularise helplines in the City. And unless this is done, the whole purpose of starting one is lost.

Apoorva C, a student, believes although the women’s helpline (1091) was started to help women, she says the purpose is lost because this helpline does not function after dusk.

“Women who work late can’t think of turning to this helpline as the line remains busy all the time. We need something stronger and long-lasting for women to feel safe and fearless,” she saysSithara S Kumar, another youngster feels, more than the helpline, the cops must increase patrolling in sensitive areas.

“Police patrolling must be increased in dark, unlit stretches of the City and make the place more safer,” she says.

Sandhya Gopinath, a professional, thinks helplines are not useful as a lot of women don’t know about it.

“The existing helplines have not been popularised enough and the numbers are either constantly busy or it has changed several times. I think women prefer calling their friends in distress rather than resorting to a helpline,” she concludes.