The ‘181’ women’s helpline was launched under Akhilesh Yadav government in 2016 and caters to women in distress.
At least 351 women employees of the ‘181’ helpline, run by the Uttar Pradesh government, have launched an indefinite protest in Lucknow’s Eco Park against the non-payment of their salaries since July 2019.
The ‘181’ women’s helpline was launched under the Akhilesh Yadav government in 2016 and has caters to women in distress.
The employees claim that they have collectively helped over 5 lakh women in need, provided them counselling, rescued them from abusive relationships, and guided them to legal aid whenever required. On 23 July, the government issued a notification saying that pending salaries of all women employees will be released within a week. It has been a month since but the employees are yet to receive their salaries.
Speaking to The Quint, Deepshikha says that the Yogi Adityanath government has turned a “deaf ear” to their cries.
“We have been running the helpline with our own savings for the last one year. We have spent our money from renting the office space to the diesel of the rescue van. What could we do when women kept calling the helpline? We cannot abandon them. But now, we do not have the resources to run this helpline on our own.”
Deepshikha, Field Counseller
Helpline Discontinued After Women Demand Salaries
This is not the first time the women are raising their voice against non-payment of their salaries.
Single mother Pooja Pandey, who has two children, is a ‘Team Leader’ at a Lucknow ‘181’ centre. After months of seeking appointment, she along with two other colleagues met UP CM Adityanath in his office on 17 July and placed their concerns.
On 20 July, the women threatened indefinite hunger strike if they were not given their due. On 23 July, the state cabinet announced the decision to integrate the ‘181’ women helpline with the ‘112’ police helpline – essentially rendering all 351 women jobless.
“I was supporting my children with this income and I was still managing without salary for a year. Not only am I yet to get salary, but also I have been left jobless amid coronavirus pandemic. Where will I go? I am not the only one like this. More than half the women here are completely dependent on the helpline salary.”
Pooja Pandey, Team Leader
Pooja’s children are now eligible to go to college but without salary or a job, she will not be able to enroll them anywhere.
‘Provided Services During Lockdown, We Need Rescuing Now’
Many women employees of the helpline continued to provide services, even during the lockdown.
Like Tehseen, who is a resident of Rae Bareli. She is the youngest daughter of the house and has to support her elderly parents. However, she continued to work amid lockdown and counselled at least 1,000 women from March to June.
“Most women would call and ask to be rescued from the domestic violence. Now that they have shut down the helpline, whom will they turn to? Also, what about us women employees who need rescuing now,” asks Tehseen, adding that she had borrowed from her extended family to take care of her parents and is now “neck-deep” in debt.
What Is The Govt Saying?
The call centre operations of the helpline are handled by GVK-EMRI, a non-profit organisation that also operates 108 and 102 ambulance helplines.
According to Deepshikha, the salary would first be given from the UP government to GVK and later credited by the NGO to the bank accounts of the women.
We are bearing the brunt because of the internal differences between UP government and GVK. From what we understand, they are having a dispute over commission and we are the ones who have lost everything,” said Deepshikha.
Speaking to The Print earlier this month, UP Minister of State for Women Welfare said:
“Yes, I got to know about this matter. Their salary is pending because of some technical issues. We will resolve this as early as possible. Our government is very sensitive in handling issues regarding women. We always believe in women empowerment. I will talk to concerned officers and solve this issue soon.”
The Quint has reached out to GVK. The story will be updated if and when they respond.
Courtesy The Quint