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Saturday, June 30, 2001

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A new helpline for kids in distress

Devesh K Pandey

NEW DELHI, JUNE 29. The Internet will now come to the aid of children in distress. Childline, a dedicated helpline for children with centres in Delhi and 30 other cities across the country, is all set to go online.

``Childnet'', the comprehensive package, can soon be accessed from any corner of the globe. It will provide exhaustive data on the number of children in distress across the country and the various causes of their suffering. Detailed information which otherwise is cumbersome to compile -- like areas where child abuse is prevalent and sections of the population more sensitive to child welfare -- will also be available.

``The information will help government and research organisations formulate realistic long-term policies,'' says Mr. Junned Khan, Prayas Childline coordinator.

Childnet has been developed by the Tata Institute for Social Sciences to provide information to various government and non- governmental organisations working on child welfare projects. When it goes online, over 100 NGOs working under the Childline India Foundation will get connected and work in close coordination.

In Delhi, the Childline service has been divided into five zones, each run by a different NGO. Elaborating on the Childnet concept, Mr. Khan says it was the outcome of an encouraging response to Childline. Last year the Childline India Foundation, which monitored various Childline centres from Mumbai, introduced its net division under the aegis of the Union Ministry for Social Justice and Empowerment. The website would go online the day the backlog is cleared, presumably come September.

``The situation demanded inter-connectivity among all Childline centres to make the whole system transparent and easily accessible,'' says Mr. Khan. The package has the facility to keep track of a case in its totality. It not only compiles data about the caller and the child victim but also gives a full account of the money spent while rescuing or helping the victim.

``We will be required to upload information about every case and its current status on a daily basis. A person will be entrusted with the task of receiving distress calls and uploading information on the computer.''

``A similar process will be followed at all centres and people can access in detail all cases reported in these cities,'' Mr. Khan adds. Childline centres thus connected through the website will be able to share vital information like phone numbers of hospitals, police stations and shelter homes available in the respective cities.

Childnet will also have information on missing children in the 30 cities which would help in tracking them down. All data will be under direct observation of the Union Ministry of Social Justice, Childline India Foundation, Delhi Commission for Women, and the government bodies concerned.

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