Fund, staff crunch plague agency helping children in distress
The district cell of the Childline India Foundation (CIF), an approved nodal agency of the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development engaged in saving children in distress, has been having a rough ride as a result of poor fund allocation by the State government and the dwindling numbers of staff.
The agency, which formally started its operations in the district in 2002 and has helped thousands of children till now, is now managed by nine persons of which a majority are paid below Rs.5,000 a month.
The fact that four of the team members have been engaging in manual labour for supporting their families completes the grim picture.
The plight of three volunteers too is not any different as they are paid just Rs.2,000 a month for field work.
And, above all, they are compelled to spend a regular amount of money for meeting their travel expenses as the cell here has no helpline vehicle for the past several years.
To attend cases related to girl children, the service of only one lady counsellor is now available at the district cell.
Since the helpline 1098 is offering round-the-clock service, many a time the counsellor finds it difficult to manage the situation.
The occasional resignations of the staff in search of better career options also put the functioning of the agency in trouble.
People who work close to the organisation point out that the agency was badly in need of a State fund to tide over the present crisis and offer more effective services to children in distress.
So far, no such initiatives have come from any quarters. A minimum of 20 staff is required to coordinate the intervention programmes in a big district such as Kozhikode, they add.
The records available with the district office of the Childline attest that around 83,522 kids have already benefitted from the service since its inception here in 2002.
In the last 12 months alone, around 900 children were given help in various contexts. “A big chunk of our population is hardly aware of this fact and they are inclined to blame us on inadvertent slips,” a Childline worker says.
The ailing condition of the agency becomes especially significant in the backdrop of the recent death of a six-year-old girl child following alleged torture by her father and stepmother.
As per an inquiry report submitted by the Additional District Magistrate to the Chief Minister on the issue, the NGO was found accountable for not taking effective action for saving the life of the child.
The report had made no mention about the plight of the organisation until the Childline staff themselves explained the situation to the Chief Minister during a recent meeting in Kozhikode.