Former Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit’s ambitious Women-in-Distress Helpline 181 is in deep trouble. Launched with much hype on the heels of December 16, 2012 gang rape after amid tussle between then Commissioner of Police Neeraj Kumar and Dikshit, the helpline was aimed to ensure action on every call from women in distress.
A senior Delhi government official confirmed that the helpline employees have not been paid from more than two months and their contracts have not been renewed after December 31, 2013.
“All the employees running the helpline were outsourced. As there is no government, no one has renewed the contracts of these employees and as a result, they are not being paid,” said a Delhi government official.
Head of the helpline, Khadijah Farooqui, a women rights activist who was hired by Dikshit as a consultant, wrote a letter to Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung seeking his immediate interference for releasing the salaries of the workers and timely review of the helpline.
The letter, a copy of which is with this newspaper, said, “We have not received our salaries from last two months. No review has been done after September, 2013 and we are totally in dark about our future. Approvals done by Sheila Dikshit for starting one stop crisis cell in hospitals and courts and providing three mobile vans to the 181 staff for rescue operations were not taken up.”
The helpline has a team of 12 women for attending the calls. All of them are from economically weaker section, survivors of violence and lone breadwinners in their families. Four floor supervisors also work there in shifts.
“We have put our day and night’s hard work to let this helpline work. We were able to develop a new advanced computer resource management system along with handling seven lakh calls and more than 75,000 heinous criminal cases in these days,” she wrote in the letter to LG.
Senior Delhi government official said the helpline may get an extension of one month.“It has been decided to renew the helpline till March 31. As there is no government, we cannot renew the contract for a year. It is true that they have not been paid since last two months. The fate of the helpline and its officials totally depend upon the decisions of the next government,” the official said.
Officials are also exploring the possibility of merging the 181 helpline into a unified helpline system for anti-corruption and consumer grievance redressal.
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