New Delhi, Nov 23: Looking to provide prompt help to distressed children across the country, the government has decided to open three new child helpline centres in Kolkata, Gurgaon and Chennai which will cover 500 cities and towns.
Childline, the 24-hour helpline started in 1996 and based in Mumbai, currently reaches out to 282 locations across India with the help of 543 partners, among which are the Tata Institute of Social Sciences and Tata Consultation Services.
"We are opening three centres: in Kolkata, Chennai and in Gurgaon. Apart from that, the service reach (of the centres) will be expanded to 500 cities and towns in about two years," Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi told PTI.
The three new centres would be nodal bases providing service to the rest of the locations.
"The aim is to enable a child in need to get prompt help," said Gandhi.
According to a senior ministry official, it is becoming difficult for the Mumbai centre to attend to all the calls made to the helpline as there is a large number of these, resulting in many calls getting abandoned.
"At present, the centre effectively caters to calls from North and West (India). The expansion will help it cater to calls from children in the South and East.
"Also, all the calls would be attended properly," the official added. The Childline, which can be reached on the number-1098, has so far this year received 38,22,081 calls of which 4 per cent were about missing children, the official said.
"At present, when a child from a remote place in Uttar Pradesh makes a call, his call is connected to the centre's staff at Mumbai, who in turn contacts the nearest service location to send help to the child.
"With the regional centres in place, the service would become more prompt as they would immediately contact the nearest NGO to reach out to the child," said the official.