Started as a helpline for women facing violence, 181 has now become a “4am friend” for women in Delhi.
There are nearly 20,000 women who dial up 181 regularly to share their problems and discuss ways to sort them out. And it’s not just assault or crime that women speak up against.
In its one-year run since December 2012, several girls have called up at the helpline when their parents didn’t let them go to school. Housewives and working women seek help when different departments fail to deliver services on time. Delhi government sources say 181 has also received calls from women not sure of how to deal with their husbands who don’t care enough.
“There are 40,000 live cases that we are handling currently. Though we had started only as a helpline that would report matters to the police, we have now expanded our role and help rehabilitate women and make their lives better,” said an official at the 181 service.
A teenager called up the helpline for a couple of months before she finally confided in a counsellor that she was allegedly being sexually assaulted by her father.
“She talked to us for several months before she finally opened up. The police rescued her and now we are trying to put her and her siblings in a hostel,” the official said. A few months ago, a housewife from Seelampur called up to complain that the gas service in her area hasn’t sent her a cylinder despite three reminders.
“When we told her we couldn’t take up her case, she calmly said to us that it would certainly become our case once her husband came back and beat her to see nothing cooked to eat,” the official said. The helpline immediately intervened and the woman called back after 10 minutes that the gas service was sending a cylinder.
Besides over 14,000 cases of obscene calls and 11,989 cases of domestic violence, the helpline has handled 52 health-related cases, 36 cases involving DTC buses and nine education-related cases between December 31, 2012 and December 31, 2013. There have also been 377 cases related to property dispute.
181 helpline runs 24X7 with staff strength of 21. There are at least eight people working in each shift. Besides the police, it keeps the numbers of all government agencies handy for providing immediate relief.