India to help upgrade Saarc countries’ child helpline services
New Delhi: In an effort to curb trafficking and violence against children in South Asia, India has extended support to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) countries to upgrade their child helpline services on the lines of India’s Childline and Track Child, initiatives to ensure the safety of runaway, abandoned, unaccompanied, kidnapped and trafficked children.
“1098 (Childline’s helpline number) should be made common in all the SAARC countries. We are willing to send our team to the SAARC countries to set up a similar system for them. The problems we face are common, but at the same time we are also dependent on each other to solve them. The regional cross sharing of initiatives will help save the lives of thousands of children,” said women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi on Wednesday. She was speaking at the fourth ministerial meeting of South Asia Initiative to End Violence Against Children (SAIEVAC) which was held to promote child rights and safety and security of children in the Saarc region.
“We all suffer from child trafficking and, therefore, we have the same problems from Afghanistan to Bangladesh. So we have all agreed on timeline-bound goals for the first time,” Gandhi said.
While Childline is a nationwide initiative for rescuing and assisting children in distress conditions and is present in 386 Indian cities, Track child is a web portal for reporting and searching missing children. Launched in 2015, so far around 1,500 cases of missing/sighted children have been reported and 140 cases of missing children have been closed on the portal.
Commenting on the success of initiatives like Childline, Gandhi said that last month the ministry got 11 lakh calls regarding children in distress, all of which could be tracked on a real-time basis.
Home minister Rajnath Singh, who was also present at the closing ceremony of the three-day ministerial meeting of SAIEVAC, listed sex tourism and child pornography as major threats to children and added that India is ensuring child safety by bringing all citizens under Aadhaar.
“The government is trying to ensure a protective environment for children by bringing all citizens under the purview of social security by linking them with Aadhaar—so that we have access to their entitlements directly without any hindrance,” Singh said.
Launched in 2006, SAIEVAC is an inter-governmental body which was formed in May 2005 as South Asia’s response to the global call by the United Nations to end violence against children.
The recommendations made during the SAIEVAC meeting—technical cooperation for regional cross-sharing and programming on ICT (information and communications technology) initiatives to trace missing children on the lines of Track Child; establishing a uniform toll free helpline across the region; developing a regional strategy and common standards for addressing all forms of sexual abuse, exploitation (including online) and trafficking; and providing technical support for strengthening helplines across the region—were adopted by all Saarc member states.