Lucknow: The operations of the ‘181’ women helpline, which had been discontinued last month, will now be merged with the ‘112’ police helpline in Uttar Pradesh. The pending salaries of the 361 protesting women employees of the 181 helpline will also be released soon, the Yogi Adityanath government announced Friday.
The move came two days after ThePrint reported that the women employees of the helpline had threatened to launch a hungerstrike if their demands — payment of salaries due for a year, restoration of the service, and justice for one of their colleagues who died by suicide in Unnao earlier this month over financial concerns — were not met.
In a statement Friday after a state cabinet meeting, the UP government said the dues of the employees will be cleared soon. All payments will be released to GVK-EMRI within a week after verification by the nodal Department of Women and Child Development at the district level. GVK-EMRI is a non-profit that operates ‘108’ and ‘102’ ambulance helplines.
The government also merged the operations of the helpline with the police helpline ‘112’. The personnel of the women’s helpline will be retained, said the statement.
According to sources in the government, the helpline will operate as it used to, providing counselling and assistance to the victims of domestic violence, rape, sexual exploitation, among other violent crimes, and helpless elderly and mentally challenged women.
Helpline employees cautiously optimistic
Pooja Pandey, who is among the four ‘team leaders’ who work at the helpline’s Lucknow headquarters, said she is happy about the development and hoped the dues will be cleared soon. However, she said protests will be launched again if the promises were not kept.
On Thursday, Pandey and other employees met the authorities, including Puneet Mishra, deputy chief probation officer in the women’s welfare department, after a protest at Eco Gardens in Lucknow.
Earlier, the authorities had removed Pandey and others from the outside the CM’s residence in Lucknow where they were protesting, assuring them of a meeting with him or any official from his office.
The women had been protesting in the state capital on nearly a daily basis seeking payment of their salaries. Woman employees associated with the helpline haven’t been paid since July 2019. The service was also discontinued in June.
While the salary of a ‘team leader’ at the helpline is Rs 25,000, a telecounsellor gets Rs 18,000 and a field counsellor (rescue van facilitator) makes Rs 20,000 per month.
On Wednesday, Swati Singh, Minister of State for Women Welfare (Independent Charge), had told ThePrint that the salary issue would be resolved soon. She said the hold-up was on account of some “technical reasons”.
The helpline had been launched by the erstwhile Akhilesh Yadav government in 2016 to provide legal and medical aid to women in Uttar Pradesh. At the time, the scheme was launched as a pilot project in 11 districts. After coming to power in 2017, the Yogi Adityanath government launched it in the remaining 64 districts under a new name.
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