Thousands of people are calling up the Delhi government's 24x7 toll-free helpline (181) for women in distress but not for the purpose it has been set up.
People are calling up for reasons such as property disputes, power cuts, unauthorised construction, marital discord, location of an LPG cylinder outlet, delayed court proceedings, etc.
A large number called up to know if the number — launched on on Monday — is working. By 4 pm on Tuesday, 4,400 people tried calling, but only 992 calls could be attended.
The rest of the callers could not get through as "those who spoke took as much as 30 minutes in explaining their problems"."Since the helpline is functioning out of the chief minister's office, we cannot cut calls that are unnecessary and take a lot of time," admitted a call attendant.
Kulanand Joshi, a senior Delhi government official and in-charge of the helpline, told HT: "We set up two lines with two operators each working in three shifts. We may have to set up a third line to share the burden."
"Till now, there's has been not a single call that needed immediate police attention. We will observe the call pattern for a week and do widespread publicity to make aware, through an indicative list, of the issues regarding they can call us."
"People call us to know why there is no electricity in a particular area, how the government can help them in resolving a property dispute. They also complain about unauthorised constructions. It's been a learning experience. We will make required changes," Joshi said.
The Delhi government on Monday faced embarrassment when the helpline's launch was marred by technical glitches. On day one, about 1,300 calls were received. Most of them were test calls. About 20 of them were complaints but not serious.
Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit had last week announced the helpline after the brutal gangrape of a 23-year-old woman on December 16. The woman died on Saturday.
"In genuine cases, we're prepared to forwarded calls to police stations, women's commission, legal services authorities or the women and child development department," Joshi said.