181 to be integrated with Mahila Panchayat, mobile helpline

New Delhi, Feb 24 (PTI) In a bid to improve the efficiency of 181 women's helpline, the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) has decided to integrate it with Mahila Panchayat and Mobile Helpline programmes.

"Till now 181 helpline has been working merely as a referral helpline that is, since it does not have a grassroot presence, it mostly forwarded complaints to police with no alternative means of providing support to the victim.

"For instance, if the victim calls on 181 to report that the police is not registering an FIR, the Helpline has no option but to tell her to continue dealing with the police. In order to improve this situation, it has thus been decided that now 181 helpline will be integrated with DCW's Mahila Panchayat as well as Mobile Helpline Program," said DCW chief Swati Maliwal today.

Mahila Panchayat is an innovative collective approach for community participation in dispute redressal and to offer crisis intervention and legal aid at community level to help tackle marital disputes and violence against women.

The 24-hour Mobile Helpline provides immediate relief to women in distress. The Helpline counsellor either counsels the people involved in the incident or provides help in registering an FIR or acquire medical assistance for the woman in distress. If required, the victim is rescued and often provided temporary shelter.

"As an undertaking of the Mahila Panchayat Program an NGO in each Assembly seat will be linked with the Commission, which shall have 3-4 personnel working at the grass root level on the issues faced by women everyday including domestic violence, police inaction etc. Complaints received by 181 helpline shall be forwarded to Mahila Panchayat whenever a need arises," Maliwal explained.

At present there are 30 Mahila Panchayat's functioning in Delhi. This number is now being increased to 70 in order to ensure that there is a Mahila Panchayat in each Assembly seat.

The DCW has invited NGOs with noteworthy work to collaborate with the Commission in forming 40 new Mahila Panchayats.

Moreover, 181 Helpline shall be linked to the DCW Mobile Helpline programme, Maliwal said.

There are currently five vans under the DCW Mobile Helpline which is now being increased to two vans in each police district.

In case of severe crisis, the Mobile Helpline van along with a counsellor rescues the woman in distress and provides immediate assistance. The Mobile Helpline van has been instrumental in successfully rescuing several women in the past.

"From now on, Mobile Helpline van will act as first responders if a caller on 181 helpline requires immediate assistance. The Commission has invited NGOs working at the grass root level to be a part of the Mobile Helpline programme," she said.

Presently, the process of strengthening the functioning of 181 is also underway, Maliwal informed.

"It has come to the knowledge of the Commission that there are no statement of protocol in place to handle complaints. There is no existing mechanism to ensure the accountability of callers and subsequently monitoring them.

Furthermore, there is also a need for immediate upgradation of software," she said.

Once the 181 helpline is effectively functional and linked with the grassroots expansion, it will be widely advertised as a part of a large scale awareness campaign, she added.


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