Women in Madhya Pradesh need to learn Hindi if they are planning to rely on the state women’s helpline ‘1090’ for their safety as the response you will get is only in the language, which is one of the 18 recognised in India.
Launched on January 1, 2013 following the December 16 gang rape of a young woman in Delhi, the helpline was touted as a safety measure for distressed women in the state.
However, call handlers’ lack of knowledge of other languages, even English, has come as a chink in the armour of the state’s security initiative for women who cannot converse in Hindi.
The matter came to light on Wednesday when a student from Chennai called up 1090 seeking help to locate her missing friend. She found it difficult to convey her problem as the attendant did not understand English and the girl did not know Hindi.
Fortunately, police located the missing girl, who was undergoing a phase of depression, and thwarted any extreme step.
The Hindustan Times did a reality check and called up the helpline, requesting help as the caller had lost her clutch.
A male attendant responded to the call at the women’s helpline. Despite repeating the problem thrice in English, he did not understand and requested the caller to speak in Hindi as he was unable to understand any word.
Safety of women, especially foreign, has taken a blow due to the language handicap.
“Imagine, what will happen if any foreign national is in trouble and calls up the women helpline and does not get any help because of language problem,” Prarthana Mishra, convener of Sangini, a Bhopal-based women’s organisation.
Mishra cautioned the government, saying small mistakes may send wrong messages across the globe about Madhya Pradesh.
Aruna Mohan Rao, additional director-general of police (crime against women), said they have never faced any problem with the helpline because of language. “We will look into it, and try to depute some attendants who speak and understand English,” she said.