The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has temporarily suspended a toll-free child helpline number after it was reported that the number appeared in the pornographic content search and calls seeking sexual services were received, an official said on Sunday. The official added that an alternative number has been launched, even as the commission tries to put the suspended number back into operation.
The helpline number operated under the Prevention of Children from Sexual Offenses (POCSO) Act has been defunct since September.
“It started receiving lewd calls every day following which we have suspended it temporarily,” the officer said. It was found that the callers dialled the number after finding it on a pornographic content site.
“The helpline number appeared in their searches as it got tagged along with words like ‘sex’. They saw ‘sex’ and the number and thought they could use it for getting sexual services,” the officer said. “The problem is that the number has been widely advertised and replacing it with another will create confusion. That is the reason we are trying to bring the same number back into operation and not discard it,” he added.
An alternative number has been made available in addition to the Childline number of 1098 to report such cases, he said.
A complaint with the police has been lodged even as the child rights body is working on a solution with state-owned telecom service provider MTNL to find a solution.
The helpline was started in 2016 as part of the “e-box” initiative of the Women and Child Development Ministry to enable filing of complaints of sexual offences against children. The e-box is hosted on the NCPCR’s website and allows people to file a complaint online or call a toll-free number.
However, in the last two years, the portal has received just 104 complaints out of which 54 have been addressed, he said.
(With agency inputs)