The Delhi Government’s much-hyped women’s helpline (181) which operates out of the office of Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit is still waiting to hear from its target audience: women in distress. Since its launch four days ago, 28,542 calls have been attempted, 7,079 calls have been responded to, of which only 361 calls have been “genuine” relating to issues such as “eve-teasing” and abusive language.

“We have also received calls regarding disputes between husbands and wives, illicit relationship or about pending court cases,” said Additional Secretary Kulanand Joshi who oversees the helpline. “There have been no serious cases reported so far concerning personal attacks on women,” he said.

Though, calls have been about all sorts of things, operators have been accommodative enough to answer their queries since “we don’t want callers to be dejected when they call in for the first time”.

How the helpline will prevent crimes against women by providing immediate relief is still unclear.

“The moment a call is recorded, within two to three minutes the police station concerned is contacted. If the matter is very serious, the call will be forwarded to the Delhi Commission for Women which can send their mobile van to the spot,” explained Mr. Joshi. This is assuming the perpetrator is still in the vicinity.

While a call made to the number on late Friday evening by a reporter was immediately attended to, the helpline has not been devoid of ridicule this week with it crashing soon after it was launched on Monday. “Friends we need your help, the Delhi government has announced a women helpline ‘181’, there are mixed reports of it working and not working, when we tried it from our Airtel connection it said ‘Please check the number you have dialled’,” said a Facebook post soon after the helpline was launched.

“Only on the first day we faced some technical problems. Now, all private service operators except for Aircel have been integrated. Work is on to integrate Aircel users as well,” said Mr. Joshi.

Despite the lukewarm opening week, the Government seems positive and has “great hope for this helpline that has set the benchmark since it operates out of the CM’s office”.

While simple adverts will soon be released to the media to educate those who are in real need of this helpline, 15 female staffers have been identified to be trained.

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