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Amrita’s helpline reaches out to women travellers in distress

Former flight attendant Amrita Ahluwalia says that her helpline in the Hyderabad airport will link women travellers in distress with support facilities. Photo: Nagara Gopal  

Cancer has failed to break her spirit and, as indefatigable as ever, Amrita Ahluwalia is back.

The former flight attendant was in the news after her timely alert that led to the rescue of an 11-year-old Hyderabadi girl married to a 60-year-old Arabian and travelling on an Indian Airlines plane that Ms. Ahluwalia was working in.

Ms. Ahluwalia is now starting a helpline for women in distress at the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport here. “I am launching a round-the-clock Amrita’s helpline at the airport for women air travellers in distress. After fighting and surviving cancer, it is a new life for me and I will work on this till my last breath to help and support women and children of Hyderabad, the city which I have adopted,” she says.

Ms. Ahluwalia earned recognition for her sensitivity to a girl in distress and her courage in tackling the issue, when she helped a passenger on August 10, 1991. She had noticed a sobbing Ameena on the Hyderabad –– Delhi flight and took the child under her wings. She filed a complaint with the police in Delhi, raising a nationwide outcry against the practice of forcible marriage of young girls to Arab nationals.

“I felt ashamed to be the one to tell the world that look, we sell our children in the name of marriage,” says Ms. Ahluwalia. She is recuperating from a surgery followed by six sessions of chemotherapy and 32 sessions of radiation therapy to tackle cancer that was diagnosed last year. She said that such practices continue, despite all the attention that the 1991 episode created. The helpline, which is to be launched with the assistance of the Hyderabad police, will provide a support system to women air travellers in distress. Transit and short stay facilities, counselling, linkage with welfare departments and identification of family and friends for care and protection will be offered.

Apart from medical care and assistance, legal support will be provided if required. “It could be poor maids returning home from abusive or exploitative employers or those cheated by agents with their passport or documents taken away,” she explains.

Ms. Ahluwalia’s life comprising long hours on flights and trials and tribulations on personal and professional fronts and the crusade on behalf of Ameena, all are getting into the pages of a book, Ek Thi Amrita.

“I am halfway through writing the book. Comedies and tragedies and all aspects of my life are part of it,” she says.


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Printable version | Jul 24, 2021 8:05:29 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/amritas-helpline-reaches-out-to-women-travellers-in-distress/article8022329.ece

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