Ten-Nine-Eight. One afternoon, a concerned citizen called this number to report a 13-year old mentally challenged boy on the street. The boy, Ganpat was lying with open wounds on his legs that were infested with maggots.

Ten-Nine-Eight. The call was taken and a team rushed to the boy. He was admitted to a hospital and supported through three surgeries. He recovered enough to walk on crutches and is now studying in a special school.

10-9-8. The countdown to a better life for the street child or CHILDLINE – India’s first 24-hour, free, emergency phone service for children. It has, since its inception five years ago, taken over 10 lakh such calls and made a difference to the lives of hundreds of thousands of children all over the country.

Set up in Mumbai on June 20, 1996, CHILDLINE is for children in need anytime and anywhere. It intervenes in case of sickness, death and abuse of children, runaways and child labour, always focusing on the marginalised child. After the initial crisis intervention, it links these children to long term services.

Initiated by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, CHILDLINE is a unique example of co-operation between government and non government agencies. It is a partnership between the Government of India, UNICEF, Department of Telecommunications, street and community youth, NGOs, academic institutions, the corporate sector and concerned individuals.

The nodal agency CHILDLINE India Foundation (CIF) undertakes development, networking and facilitation, training, research and documentation and awareness and advocacy at the national and international level. Most important, it ensures that help for the street child is always a phone call away.


CHILDLINE reaches out to all children in need of care and protection which includes:

  • street children
  • child labourers
  • children who have been abused
  • child victims of the flesh trade
  • differently-abled children
  • child addicts
  • children in conflict with the law
  • children in institutions
  • mentally challenged children
  • HIV / AIDS infected children
  • children affected by conflict and disaster
  • child political refugees
  • children whose families are in crises.


Children call for a variety of reasons ranging from seeking directly for help to just sharing their problem with someone. Sometimes children have called just to talk to someone who has the time to listen to them. This is a reinforcement of their feeling that there is someone who cares and who is always there for them when in need. For lakhs of these children 1098 is a number that they can call as their very own where they are reassured that there will always be somebody to look after their needs.

  • medical assistance
  • shelter
  • missing children
  • repatriation
  • protection from abuse
  • emotional support and guidance
  • death
  • information about CHILDLINE
  • silent calls
  • chat calls


The need for such a service came as a response to the streets. A large number of children on the streets were denied access to basic rights. There were a large number of services provided for children that went largely untapped while there were large number of children on the street who were un-reached. Additionally, there were very few services for certain groups of children such as girl children, children with disability and children with mental illness. The initiative hoped to address the needs of these un-reached children, estimated by UNICEF to be around 800,000 children in urban India alone who need special care and protection. The CHILDLINE service seeks to provide a mechanism to reach out to these un-reached children.