All across India, over 1 crore children live on the streets. Nearly 1.2 lakh children amongst them are found on railway platforms each year. Every five minutes a child arrives alone at a railway station, usually escaping abuse of some sort. They look to make money in any way they can, often scavenge for scraps of food and sleep huddled together in groups for safety. These railway children have to face violence, exploitation, trafficking and abuse.
Runaway or lost
Children from poorer backgrounds run away to escape neglect, abuse, violence at home or are abandoned by their parents or caretakers. They have nowhere to go and end up on the streets because there is nobody to turn to. Many also set out to find work in cities. Some of them intend to return to their families with money but end up getting lost in the chaotic railway network.
This is exactly what happened to 12-year-old Sonu who was found at Delhi Railway Station in January 2020. He lost his way from his grandmother’s house. Sonu’s father passed away some years ago and his mother was not able to raise him as a single parent. She handed him over to his paternal grandmother. Later, she remarried and started a new life in the village. His grandmother worked as a domestic helper to provide for him but the coronavirus lockdown took away her livelihood and she was unable to even provide food.
Our NGO partner Railway Children India took care of Sonu and eventually tracked down his grandmother to reunite them. So many, like Sonu, who end up on railway platforms are at a high risk of becoming easy prey for sexual offenders, human traffickers, drug cartels and others. By the time they come in contact with child welfare organisations, they have already faced trauma and abuse and require counselling and rehabilitation. The lockdown-induced poverty and uncertainty have pushed more children to leave home in search of work.
A safety net and shelter
We urge you to donate online to our mission to save India’s railway children from abuse and help in providing them with safe shelter, nutritious food, counselling and healthcare. All it takes is ₹600 per day to care for one rescued child.
Our NGO partner Railway Children India rescues minors from 10 train stations and runs Open Shelters to provide them with short-term shelter and care. Subsequently, they are either reunited with their families or rehabilitated in long-term care homes. Of course, during the extended lockdown period, the latter could not happen and all the rescued children remained in their care.
Sadly, as soon as travel restrictions eased a bit, in June alone 78 children were found around the stations and had to be given shelter. With the sudden loss of livelihoods created by the lockdown and families thrown into abject poverty, NGOs expect that there are going to be even more children like Sonu who need help.
Railway Children India are running a fundraiser to provide these vulnerable children with the most basic care and protection until they are reunited with their families or referred to long-term care homes. Please donate now.
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Samar is a Marketing Communications specialist and freelance writer. She has a master’s in marketing and creativity from ESCP Business School. She is an avid traveler and likes to write about technology, travel, wildlife and sustainability.