Why Yogi Adityanath Is in No Hurry to Axe Akhilesh’s 1090 Helpline

While the new Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Uttar Pradesh is reviewing schemes launched by former Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav – with some slated to be closed down – there is one that is likely to escape Yogi Adityanath's axe – the 1090: Women Power Line.

In fact, if sources are to be believed, the state government is mulling a major upgrade to the 1090: Women Power Line scheme that has provided relief to millions of girls and women against sexual harassment, pesky calls and lewd comments on phones, in the past five years.

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Siddharthanath Singh, Health Minister and state government spokesman We will not act under any vendetta against the previous government; if there were good projects, the present government would certainly like them to stay.

In a presentation the police department is soon to make to Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, 1090 has been included as a successful project that needs to be followed up with more manpower and financial muscle, an official of the state Home Department said.

A Swanky Sarkari Office

Actress Vidya Balan and filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt at the launch of Women helpline Line – 1090 in Lucknow on 16 June 2015. (Photo: IANS)

A visit to the 1090 headquarters in posh Gomtinagar, a stone's throw from the official 5 Kalidas Marg, residence of the Chief Minister, itself tells a tale. Unlike government and police properties in Uttar Pradesh that present a depressing picture of cluttered and cramped spaces, dingy, dirty and paan-spattered rooms with carelessly dumped files collecting dust and cobwebs, the sprawling 1090 office is a pleasant surprise. Walls painted in pastels, colourful blinds, smiling faces of policewomen, a coffee maker, and an ambience enhanced by portraits of women achievers.

But the corporate sheen of the office is much more than mere looks. Growing from a skeletal staff of a handful and 20 computers on Bhaiyyadooj on 15 November 2012, to its present envious status as one of the most tom-tommed projects of the Samajwadi Party (SP) government, the track record of 1090 speaks volumes.

1090 Helpline: An Impressive Track Record

Headed by the young and dapper Navneit Sekera, a 1996 batch IPS with a B Tech degree from the Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkie, and an MBA from the Indian School of Business, the Women Power Line has earned praise from all.

In the past five years, it has registered a whopping 7,23,000 complaints, of which, 7,13,000 have been disposed off. Of these, 88 percent were complaints regarding harassment on phone, seven percent regarding harassment at public places, and a mere two percent each about harassment at social networking sites and domestic violence.

Sekera says how, before its inception, his team conducted a study on what girls and women really face and what they are looking for. Indian Institute of Management, Lucknow teaching faculty and students were roped in to conduct a study. The results were an eye-opener. Girls told the survey team that right since birth, they were told to grin and bear injustice and acts of harassment.

This, they pointed out, could change only if the girl complainants were not called to the police stations, did not have to deal with policemen, and their names were kept a secret.

"This formed the foundation of 1090," said Sekera, as he pointed out how social stigma and parental whip were bypassed and girls were empowered to speak up for themselves. The complaints grew, as the faith in 1090 developed over the years.

From 1,42,000 in 2013 to almost 2,00,000 in 2016, girls are coming out with their problems of harassment with greater confidence than ever before. From 1 January to 31 March this year, as many as 62,058 complaints have been registered – 689 per day – and 52,791 resolved.

Among the top seven districts from where women and girls make complaints were Varanasi (Prime Minister Narendra Modi's constituency) and Gorakhpur, Adityanath's Lok Sabha constituency.

The new dispensation is expected to give more teeth to the 1090 scheme in the form of manpower and budget, and the staff here hope that Adityanath will visit them sooner or later – and see for himself the work they do and the change they have ushered in.

Sadly, the man credited with the project – Akhilesh Yadav – never visited the 1090 HQ, though his wife Dimple Yadav did – twice.

(This article has been published in an arrangement with IANS.)

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