Introduction of 1090—a one-state-one-number service operated by the UP Police to handle cases of harassment by vulgar and abusive callers and stalkers—shows the State Government’s commitment towards women’s safety
Crimes against women have always been a matter of concern in Uttar Pradesh, as a large number of women suffer violence and humiliation silently. Therefore, the State Government decided to introduce a specialised call centre service, called ‘1090 – Women Power Line’.
It is a one-state-one-number service operated by the UP Police to handle cases of harassment by vulgar and abusive callers and stalkers, thus sending out message that the system is responsive to the cause of women’s safety.
There are many testimonies available of faceless voices that called the 1090 Women Power Line in Uttar Pradesh ever since it was started in October 2012. One would not be surprised with the figure that over 200,000 cases of harassment have been registered by the Uttar Pradesh Police to date.
Media reports suggest that between August 2011 and November 2011, of the number of complaints of harassment and crimes against women received by the National Commission for Women, highest were from this State. Moreover, according to the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) 2011 data, the State accounted for 12.9 per cent of all violent crimes – highest in the country. Violent crimes, according to NCRB classification, include murder, attempt to murder, culpable homicide, dowry deaths, kidnapping and abduction, dacoity, robbery, riots, arson and rape.
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Several features of the service set it apart from other helplines. First, the victim callers are assured of complete anonymity. They get a patient hearing from the women constables who take their calls. Incidentally, the constables are young women, picked from the 2011 batch. Secondly, the victim is required neither to come to the police station to lodge her complaint nor to show up for any hearing. The third innovative feature is the feedback system. The first feedback is taken after 24 hours, the second after a week and the final one is taken after a month. If the victim does not get an abusive or vulgar call for a month, the case is deemed closed.
Of course, the success of the whole concept revolves around the 30 women constables, who along with 30 of their male counterparts, are not just friends and guides of the victims, but also take on the task of counselling the abusive callers. To prepare for this sensitive task, they go through a rigorous selection process, which is followed up with extensive tele-calling training.
It has been found that most of the offenders are not criminals but young boys. After the arrest of these people, the department counsels them and explains to them the consequences their actions can have on their future, and they usually stop harassing the girl. Around 90-95 per cent cases are solved right at that moment. The remaining five per cent cases are forwarded to the crime branch section of 1090.
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The services of the Power Line are being rolled out in three phases – the first is already in operation. Now, the department enthusiastically is looking forward to the remaining two phases. A rich database of the harassment cases against women is being prepared and this will be used to address the issue of harassment in cyberspace. This will comprise the second phase of the project ready to be launched. The third phase will deal with physical violence against women in public places. Using the database of crimes currently being prepared, difficult areas will be tagged using Google Earth.