The purpose is to help find children who are missing. I hope that everyone who visits will chose to become a part of the solution.
Chennai records among the country's highest calls made to Child Line, phone outreach programme for children in distress. With an average of over 400 calls (including interventions) being logged every month, it provides the fourth `most active' Child Line service in India.
Chennai follows Mumbai (1360.4 calls a month), Kolkata (1159.5) and New Delhi (505.3), though the phone service here was started long after it had begun in the other three metros.
Chennai is one of the important centres as far as Child Line is concerned. Being a metro, there is a good `high-risk' children population in the city and the requirement for intervention, therefore, is also high, according to Child Line India Foundation deputy director, John Menachery.
The foundation is based in Mumbai and coordinates activities throughout the country.
Chennai, among the metros, was the last to launch the Child Line programme. The toll free helpline, 1098, was inaugurated in April 1999. The programme, though proposed as early as September 1998, commenced only eight months later. However, with awareness picking up, complaints of children in distress started pouring in. A total of 1,20,269 calls have been made to 1098 in Chennai since its inception.
Child Line volunteers said that among the reasons for the large number of calls were the presence of a major railway junction, the film industry at Kodambakkam and a large floating labour population.
Officials at the Directorate of Social Defence, nodal agency for Child Line here, said the city also recorded the highest number of `abuse' cases — both physical and sexual abuse cases were reported regularly. A total of 281 cases have been registered, about 235 of them cases of physical abuse perpetrated by members of the family and employers.
Other frequent complaints included missing children, those requiring shelter and emotional support and counselling. While initial rescue is done by the two co-ordinating agencies, cases are also referred to other non-governmental organisations for rehabilitation, to the Juvenile Welfare Board for intervention or are repatriated.
The board has been particularly significant in securing compensation for the children from their employers or abusers. Sums as high as Rs. 10,000-15,000 have been awarded to the children, according to the members.
At the Directorate we believe that the best place for the child is with the family. So our main rehabilitation efforts centre round restoring him or her to the immediate family, unless the family itself is the abuser or has disintegrated,'' says Mohammed Nasimuddin, Director of Social Defence. A total of 189 children, who were rescued by Child Line, have so far been restored to their families.
Mr. Nasimuddin said the teething problems, which were faced when the Child Line calls were diverted to all-women police stations were resolved.
We have appointed NGO volunteers counsellors in each of the four all-women police stations, in the city. In addition, through interaction and training, the policewomen are now sensitised to the needs of the children and they even go on regular rescue missions, unlike as in the past,'' he added.
How to Help
If you want to help make the world a safer place for children and other victims of abuse you can do any of the following: