Jeroo Billimoria, then
a faculty member of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS),
regularly received a number of calls from children on VT railway
station, asking for help. The seeds of CHILDLINE were sown by the
urgency of such calls and the fact that all of these were late in
the night; after all other voluntary services were closed for the
day. Each time, Jeroo had to rush out to take these children to
hospitals, police stations, shelters, anywhere to get help.
The need of the hour was a day-night emergency service
that these children could call at any time for help. The
had to be widespread and
round the clock, keeping in mind that
street children are a mobile unit
and that help might be needed
at any time of the day.
A telephone outreach service, backed by an extensive,
round-the-clock network of support and crisis intervention seemed
to offer a solution. But the important part was having a number
that these children could call in anytime, knowing that help was
The toll free number 1098 provided by
of telecommunications proved to be an efficient link. But the
challenging aspect was yet to be handled. It was going to be no
mean feat to spread the word about the hotline, to make it catchy
and easy enough for every child to remember. This was important
if the helpline had to be successful.
And as usual the solution came from the children
who eventually had to use it. At a meeting with the
to discuss the launch of the service, one of the children saw what
all grown-ups had failed to see. And then it seemed so obvious!
“Didi, it’s an easy number to remember,”
they said, “just – dus-nau-aath!”
There it was. We decided to publicize the number
as dus-nau-aath (ten-nine-eight) instead of calling
This was just one of the insights coming from
the grassroots level that have helped us reach 54 cities today
to over 4.5 million calls from children and concerned adults.