Childline, the phone-based help line for children in trouble, requires volunteers to make it effective, said Renni D’Souza, child rights activist and director, PADI, a nongovernmental organisation that runs the helpline in Mangalore.

Speaking at an interactive session in the city on Tuesday, he said, “We need as many volunteers as possible.” He said volunteers were required to help with rescuing children in trouble, for help with legal procedures related to rescue, for transport in rescues and for creating awareness among people about the helpline. People could act as volunteers by calling 1098 if they saw a child in trouble, by providing information that they have, and to help in rescue operations. “Every citizen of Mangalore should call the Childline,” he said.

Anybody could become a volunteer and there were no qualifications. Volunteers can work in shifts. They can help by attending to the phone and taking calls. There is a particular need for women volunteers especially at night. At present, the helpline has only men working at night and for rescuing a girl child, women volunteers are required.

It has one counsellor, three volunteers and one co-ordinator.

There are grades within the volunteers. Depending on the kind of work done, they will get paid Rs. 2,000 plus actual expenses such as travel for escorting a child in trouble, he said.

His organisation is working towards getting a board with the Child Helpline number on it, installed in schools. The requirement is laid down in the School Development and Monitoring Committee (SDMC) rules. The organisation is in talks with Roshni Nilaya so that students of Masters in Social Work (MSW) from that institution could act as volunteers for the helpline, he said.

Childline gets several from Belthangady, Bantwal and Sullia. The system has to be decentralized and the taluks should have their own volunteers. “But more sensitization is required,” he said.

The Childline is a project of the Central government and implemented by the Ministry of Women and Child Development in partnership with the State government, NGOs and corporate sector to help children in trouble. It deals with child labour, domestic labour, medical aid, child sexual abuse, mental challenges, physical abuse, trafficking and begging. Children in trouble or adults seeking help for children in trouble may call 1098, a toll free number, any time in the day or night. It is a collaborative effort and involves bureaucrats, civil society and corporate houses, he said.

The Childline in Mangalore has received 60 cases since September last year. It includes 12 abuse cases, 20 cases of corporal punishment and three cases of death. It received 20 cases from Child Welfare Committee of which four were about missing children, eight related to shelter, two each related to child marriage, escorts and referred cases (from Childlines in other cities). In Mangalore, it received 1,167 calls. Monthwise, it received in September (44), October (78), November (182), December (150), January (256), February (241), March (216), said Mr. D’Souza.

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