All new centres expected to be functional by March 2011

ChildLine (1098), the emergency phone outreach service for children in distress will be extended to nine other districts in Tamil Nadu.

The districts to be covered under this new proposal are Tiruvallur, Tiruvannamalai, Thanjavur, Pudukottai, Dharmapuri, Villupuram, Ariyalur, Vellore and Tirupur, sources in the Directorate of Social Defence, the nodal agency for ChildLine in Chennai, told The Hindu.

The project will be implemented under the Integrated Child Protection Services Scheme.

ChildLine was launched in Chennai in April 1999, followed by the second city Coimbatore in December that year. Subsequently, other districts were covered – Salem, Tiruchi, Madurai, Tirunelveli, Kanyakumari, Nagapattinam, Cuddalore, and Mahabalipuram (Kancheepuram district).

The process of identifying non-governmental agencies to serve as nodal agencies, collaborative agencies and supporting agencies has already begun, according to Vijay of the ChildLine India Foundation. The process would involve sending a recommendation of two agencies willing to take up the work to the CIF, which would then make the decision.

There are two models that are followed – district and city, Mr. Vijay explained. While the first covers the entire district, the latter focuses on the urban centre alone, such as Chennai or Coimbatore, considering the range of problems and huge demand for such services. The team capacity and telecom services are also limited to this area, he said.

Nationally, according to CIF data, the bulk of calls come in for emotional support and guidance for children. In the period April 2008- December 2008, it was 27 per cent.

The next big chunk is for restoration, or taking lost/runaway children back home, followed by calls for medical assistance, shelter and sponsorship in that order. A significant portion of the calls also come in for requests for scholarship.

Anuradha Vidyashankar, head, Southern Regional Resource Centre, added that usually the trends in a city follow the previous year's more or less, with few minor differences.

The total number of calls has been coming down over the years, Ms. Vidyashankar said, primarily because BSNL is no longer the only telecom provider as it was when the project started. While the calls are toll-free on BSNL (1098), they will be charged if the calls come on other networks, and this could be one reason for the drop in the number of calls, she reasoned.

However, efforts are on to strike up partnerships with other private telecom operators to ensure that the toll-free nature of the service is maintained. Another reason for the drop in the number of calls could be due to the slow disappearance of public phone booths, she added.

Mr. Vijay explained that the aim was to get all the nine centres functional by March 2011.

The nodal centres will be academic institutions, non-governmental institutions with the requisite capacity or the government, he added.

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Health & LifestyleSeptember 24, 2010