Helpline staff have rescued children as young as two months old
Rani arrived in Bangalore from a small village in Tamil Nadu at the age of 10 to stay in a girls’ hostel for her education. But she ended up as the domestic helper in one of the more elite homes in the city, where she was compelled to work for almost 20 hours a day, was given only one bun everyday and was a victim of constant physical abuse. The family threw her out on the streets where she was found by a man three days later. Fortunately, he contacted Childline 1098 that ended up being the silver lining in her heart-wrenching story.
Since its inception, Childline 1098 has come a long way to be celebrating its 10th anniversary in Bosco Mane, a collaborative institution here on Tuesday. The chief guestwas Umesh Aradhya, Chairman of the Karnataka Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (KCPCR).
The Bangalore unit of the helpline was started in 2002 to rescue and rehabilitate young victims of physical and sexual abuse, child labour, child marriage, runaways and abandoned children. Over the last 10 years, it has received almost 6.04 lakh calls, of which 13,770 required immediate intervention. In 2013 alone, it received an estimated 1.5 lakh calls with about 2,000 of them intervention calls.
The helpline staff have rescued children as young as two months old to 14-and 15-year-olds. The partner institutions focus on the rehabilitation of the children by providing them education, skill training and awareness about their child rights so that they can compete in the general mainstream and get placed in jobs.
Shiela Devaraj, nodal director of the helpline, said: “When we started the helpline, there was a lack of any structure for the protection of child rights. There was no Child Welfare Committee, no Karnataka Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (KCPCR) and no Juvenile Justice Act. But we had a lot of support from the media which helped us generate sensitivity for child rights, especially among the middle class.”
She added that though the legal infrastructure is much better now, they are still grappling with challenges of inadequate infrastructure to house the children as well as the lack of translators and counsellors.
Narasimha Rao from the Child Rights Trust, who has been associated with the helpline since its inception said, “We have seen the calls increase sharply over the years, with greater awareness about child rights among the people in the city. People no longer normalise child abuse.” He added that in the last two-three years, calls regarding corporal punishment in schools have become increasingly common. “We receive almost five calls each week,” he said.