The 1098 service,also called Childline,is a round-the-clock hotline for children in distress. Every month,it receives around 4,000-4,500 calls of which at least three to four pertain to child sexual abuse in the city. Cases pertaining to child labour and missing children are also registered with the helpline.
City coordinator Purvi Parikh said,All are not distress calls. Some children just call up to say hi or look for a companion to talk to.
She pointed out that with parents having little time for their children,drug abuse and teenage problems are on the rise.
These children usually do not identify themselves,but once we earn their confidence,the calls do not stop. They would keep on updating us with every small step they take in life. They know all our names, she added.
According to Parikh,the number of actual cases number around 30 to 40 every month. There is no fixed number; but during exams or when results are declared,the frequency of calls increase, she said,adding that Childline has been receiving such calls frequently,as examinations are due in March.
Dean of the M S University Social Work and Nodal Director for National Initiative of Child Protection,Aruna Khasgiwala,said there are no glaring cases of child labour in Vadodara as compared to Surat and Anand. She added that they even receive cases of child sexual abuse even though most such cases are hushed up by parents. Khasgiwala conducts training and workshops for the volunteers and members involved in the functioning of the service.
Parikh said the police,hospitals and the railways,being allied agencies,help out with the functioning of the Childline by giving information about missing children.
We do the follow up by finding the parents of the missing children. Some dont wish to return,fearing parental abuse. We dont force such children to go back.
A recent addition to the initiative has been the inclusion of Public Call Offices. We have been able to spread awareness about the
Childline among the PCO owners in and around railway or state transport terminals. They regularly help us by calling and identifying children in distress, Parikh added.