No response for calls from non-BSNL numbers too; HelpAge India cites technical hitches

Several calls made to the Elders helpline – 1253 -- do not seem to reach the volunteers at the 24-hour call centre. Recently, when residents of Kodambakkam tried calling the number to arrange a rescue for a senior citizen, they found that was no response from the other end.

Senior citizens say the problem has existed for a while. R. Nizhamudeen, a resident of Royapettah said of late he has stopped calling the number as nobody answers. “Three months ago I tried the number and nobody answered. Previously I had made several complaints and some steps were taken. It worked well when it was opened in 2004. But slowly over the years it has stopped functioning,” he said.

There is also no response when the number is dialled from mobile numbers other than BSNL. Sometimes, the called also get s a “wrong number” response.

The helpline is manned by HelpAge India, an NGO and functions from the Chennai Police Commissionerate.

A spokesperson of HelpAge India said: “As we have been having problems with 1253, we launched another helpline 1800 – 180- 1253 in December last. That functions during office hours from our office. There seems to be some kind of technical hitch, which is why calls seem to go unanswered. We have recently written to BSNL asking them to check if there is any fault,” he said

The NGO has also been writing to private mobile service operators asking them to consider it as a free service as it is for a social cause. “We have not received any response from such companies and have only been directed from one office to another,” he said.

According to statistics provided by HelpAge India, this month alone, there were 29 cases of senior citizens rescued.

There were 32 such cases in May. In the last financial year, 1200 persons were rescued.

From February 18, 2004 when it was launched, 8,200 calls have been attended.

At night when HelpAge volunteers are not available those manning the woman helpline note down contact numbers and inform them.

However, police said that the helpline number was functioning properly. “The NGO volunteers sit in the control room till noon. In the afternoon, two police personnel are always there to attend calls,” said R.Samuthirapandi, deputy commissioner of police, control room.

The numbers for various helplines in the city are Chennai Corporation – 1913; TNEB – 155333; Elders Helpline - 1800 – 180- 1253; Child Line –1098; Women help Line – 1091; Railway Women Help Line - 044 – 25353999.

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