With the aim to provide a platform for women in distress, a dedicated police helpline - dial 1091 - has been functioning in the tricity. This has been seen as a step in right direction, but much remains to be done to popularise it enough.
Though the helpline were initially launched with an aim to provide instant help to the victims of snatching and those being harassed by men on road, owing to the low recall value of the number, women in cases of emergency end up calling the police control room (PCR) at 100.
Yet, the Chandigarh helpline received 520 calls in the past nine months, SAS Nagar has got 2,500 calls since December last year, while Panchkula, since October last year, has received 579 calls.
Those calling the helpline have to tell their name and location, so that the nearby PCR vehicle reaches the victim in 2-5 minutes. Many times, it takes up to 15 minutes, even more. However, with senior cops monitoring the calls randomly, staff dealing with the calls are courteous.
SAS Nagar, which has '1091' for the entire district, faces a problem, as many times calls from Chandigarh land up on their helpline. "We get calls from women asking about how to lodge complaint and where they can lodge a complaint. Many callers just want the phone numbers of officers. Calls received are of mixed nature, ranging from domestic violence to being regularly exploited," said a woman cop deployed for taking calls on the helpline in SAS Nagar.
"Most calls are from domestic violence victims; these are usually received during the evening when their drunken husbands beat them. Most of these couples need counselling, and a few want criminal action. In cases where the problem is serious, we send the PCR staff and vehicle with woman cops so that the victim in distress gets help," said a cop handling the helpline in Panchkula.
"The helpline gets calls from people seeking phone numbers of hospitals, while many just give missed calls, unaware of the fact that each call made on this number is recorded. Many a time, girls call up saying that they have been receiving obscene massages on their mobile phones and want to ask what to do? But not many call to complain about men passing lewd remarks," added another woman police official from Chandigarh.
Just 1 at a time
The SAS Nagar helpline has received 2,500 calls since December last year, when it was started, till November 20 this year.
The Chandigarh line received 520 calls in the past nine months since inception and Panchkula, since October last year, has received 579 calls.
The SAS Nagar police settled/ forwarded 501 of the cases for FIRs, the number for Panchkula helpline was 15, and 26 for Chandigarh. At all three places, one woman cop handles the calls at any given time. SAS Nagar and Panchkula have three lines each, and two cops who work in rotation. Chandigarh has a single line and three cops who work in alternate shifts.
Acting on complaints immediately
Stress is laid on tackling the complaints on priority. After receiving a call, the PCR vehicle is pressed into service instantly. Staff has been sensitised on how to deal with complainants of sexual harassment. Roshan Lal, deputy supdt of police (DSP), Chandigarh.
Number displayed at key places
A major chunk of the calls received on the helpline are about domestic violence. Displaying the number 1091 at strategic points worked a lot for creating awareness. Purnima Singh, asst commissioner of police, Panchkula.
Having woman cops helps
We have been receiving calls about all types of crime, from lewd comments to stalking. Most complaints pertain to domestic violence. Having woman cops to take calls helps a lot. HS Riar, DSP, SAS Nagar.
VOXPOP Is the helpline for women effective?
Spur info drive
Helplines are good to an extent, and I think girls in the city feel safer with them. Police are going to schools and sensitising students. That's a great way to deal with the rate of crime. I think that more such campaigns should be started in schools and colleges. Farmaish, school student, Chandigarh.
With the helpline, some women who would otherwise not be ready to share their horrors can easily call and register their complaints. But it seriously depends on the police as to how long they can sustain this. The move needs to be effective over a period of time. Amrita Rana, Chandigarh based, dentist.
The police have made this helpline for us and we can see the number on the back of buses and also some autos, but there should also be regular surveillance outside girls' hostel and colleges, and in secluded places. The police should sustain the campaign. Payal Johal, student, Govt College for Comm & Busi Admn-42.
The helplines are extremely useful, and they are in best interest of the women. But these should be popularised among the youth. Also, examples should be set where there are success stories connected to the PCRs reaching the spot on time and helping victim. Reena Kansal, student, Govt College for Comm & Busi Admn-42.
The helpline has given a platform to women to lodge their complaints. Women who were earlier not very forthcoming and used to be silent sufferers can now afford to change. With awareness rising, there's also increase in registration of cases of crime against women. Savita Saxena, advocate, Chandigarh.
Residents are aware of the helpline, but in distress most victims call the PCR number 100, which has more recall. The other day we had nabbed a man who harassed a girl in SAS Nagar but, despite the police station not being far, the PCR responded after many calls. Prof Iqbal Preet Kaur, DAV College-10, Chandigarh.