States miss deadline to set up helpline for elderly during Covid. Govt says but Covid’s to blame

Representative image | File photo of the elderly registering for the Covid vaccine at the Rajiv Gandhi Super Speciality Hospital in Delhi | Photo: Suraj Singh Bisht/ThePrint

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New Delhi: In a release dated 17 May, the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment announced that a central toll-free helpline had been launched to provide assistance to the country’s elderly population, who might find it difficult to cope with the physical and emotional challenges of the pandemic. The helpline, Elderline, provides information on old age homes, caregiver services, activity centres along with interventions for abandoned or abused elders, and legal guidance and counselling, where needed. It also serves as an emotional support system, by providing counselling services.

However, while five states had already made the helpline operational at the time of the announcement, other states are yet to set it up, despite the social justice ministry having said that efforts were on to make it operational in all states by the end of May.

“States are seeking time in view of the Covid pandemic that impacted normal operations,” R. Subrahmanyam, secretary, Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment, told ThePrint. “So far seven states have established the helpline, while in two other states it is ready to be launched. As far as the other states are concerned, they are in various stages of setting up the helpline,” he added.

The central project calls for the setting up of state-wise call. The five states that have already set up the helpline are Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Karnataka, which made the helpline operational on 28 April, followed by Uttar Pradesh on 14 May. The ministry also stated that Telangana had already set up the helpline last year.

However, since then, in the past three weeks only two more states have operationalised the helpline. “Delhi and Uttarakhand have operationalised the helpline since then and two more are ready to launch,” Subrahmanyam said.

Also read: In Covid battle, this ‘army’ of volunteers is helping senior citizens, others stuck at home

Five-time surge in calls

According to data available with the ministry, the total number of calls received by the helpline has increased by a little less than 50 times in the past three weeks, from 475 calls on 17 May to 20,000 on 3 June.

“We have received 20,000 calls so far, and about one-third were actionable,” Subrahmanyam said.

The SJE secretary said that most calls have been related to health concerns. “The nature of the calls have been related to health issues or emotional issues,” he added.

The Elderline facility is being operated with assistance from Tata Trusts and NSE foundations. Call centres can be reached by dialing the toll-free number 14567.

(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)

Also read: Second Covid wave is causing guilt, anxiety, distress, NIMHANS helpline sees 40% spike in calls


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