The police are struggling to extend the reach of the Elderline programme to domestic workers and other service employees, who share a perception that contact with law enforcers will inevitably mean harassment and avoidable hassles.
Elderline is a recent Mumbai Police drive to register senior citizens across the city, begun in the wake of a string of assault and murder cases involving the aged, with domestic workers as prime accused. After drawing only around 4,200 registrations since it began in May 2006, this year the police have already reached 37,137 (against a targeted 35,000).
Despite this unprecedented success, a component of the drive — registering senior citizens’ domestic workers and other service providers such as milkmen, delivery boys and newspaper vendors — has fallen far short of expectations.
Sources in Elderline said while the senior citizens have reacted favourably to the concept, their support staff sees the police with a far warier eye, adding that the success with senior citizens is primarily due to the simplification of the registration process. Police commissioner D. Sivanandhan had launched a dedicated interactive website, humarisuraksha.com, on which senior citizens can register online. Once registered, they are watched over by the police.
Compared to that success, only 480 domestic workers registered, and not a single service provider has signed up. Inspector Feroz Patel, who is in charge of the Elderline control room, said domestic workers are averse to enlisting on the helpline, especially since they need to submit their photographs and personal details including residential address and references.
“We cannot force anyone, it’s a voluntary effort,” Patel said, adding that in many cases, they quit the job or simply disappear when landlords insist on registering them with the police.