City anchor: Women’s helpline in city works, but not many know of it

In August last year, in the lower-middle class vicinity of Dharavi, a single working woman faced daily harassment. Lewd comments, hooting and whistling had become a daily affair. As advances became unbearable, one night, those men got audacious and decided to gang up outside her house. Scared of an untoward incident, she decided to seek police help and dialed the helpline for women — 103. To her surprise, help reached her in a matter of just 20 minutes. All men arrested, the police van also made it clear that such nuisance would not be tolerated.

In the aftermath of December 16 gangrape of a 23-year-old medical student in the Capital, while the Delhi police were pressured to launch a helpline, the one in Mumbai has been working successfully. The 24*7 helpline for women, children and senior citizens, launched in 2008, sees 30,000 calls every year on an average. While cases of domestic violence top the list, with as many as 685 "actionable calls" received at the two lines at the control room between April-September last year, a large number of eve-teasing and molestation cases, too, have been reported on the helpline.

Figures collated for the period of April-September 2012 show that in 67 cases of molestation, the police were able to take action.

Several callers seek immediate intervention, some just seek counseling. "Anything and everything to do with women is reported on this number. From robbery to neighborhood fight, people call and seek help. People are still not aware of the real purpose of these numbers," says Dr Nandita Shah, co-director of Akshara, a city-based NGO.

Despite these lines having been improved, Shah says, the number has not registered in the minds of people. "The number 100 is ingrained in the minds of people. Similar response has not been seen for 103. Police need to aggressively reach out to public," Shah says.

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