Want to trace a runaway or a kidnapped child? Chances are that you may find her or him at the Chennai Central Railway Station.
Since January, over 120 children were rescued from the Central Railway Station. According to the Government Railway Police, 70 per cent of these rescued children were from other states. They had either come here to work along with their parents or had simply escaped from home failing to cope with pressure from parents and peers.
“We have rescued children aged between three months and 15 years. When it comes to children from other states, their parents might be working here as labourers and they would like to join them. In most cases, children willingly come to work while in a few cases they did not know that they would be forced to work,” Sekar, Inspector of Government Railway Police, Central Railway Station, said.
Such children often arrive in groups comprising children of their neighbours. The GRP said the traffic to Chennai has been high from the states of Bihar, Orissa, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Mizoram.
They have come across children who were on their way to join their parents working in textile units in Tirupur and Coimbatore or were engaged in brick kilns in different parts of the state.
They reportedly told the policemen that while their parents earned anywhere between Rs 80 and Rs 120 a day, bringing their children to work would get them an additional income of close to Rs 40.
At times, these children are brought along by neighbours or a co-villager who had worked at the unit where the parents of the kid were engaged and had gone home for holiday. In one such instance, the GRP arrested a man a few weeks ago who landed in Chennai by the Howrah Mail with eight children from Arunachal Pradesh. The man claimed that he brought the children along as they wanted to see their parents. The man was arrested and the children rescued. They were later handed over to their relatives. Police noted that in such cases, the worst part was that the money spent by the trafficker to get himself out on bail would have to be borne by the parents of the children. In this particular case, the parents were burdened to pay back Rs 10,000.
The GRP said that at least 30 police personnel were deployed at vantage points at all the platforms in both Central and Moore Market complex suburban section. Each platform at Central would be manned by a team of three while 10 personnel would be deployed at the suburban platforms. They would scan every nook of the station for lonely or crying children.
They in particular check trains arriving from other states, like Howrah Mail, Navajeevan Express, Coromandel Express, Trivandrum Mail and Pinakini Express. Police noted that while children from northern states came to work but those from the southern states escaped from home under pressure. Recently the 11-year-old son of a head constable ran away from home at Vijayawada after his parents allegedly beat up him. The boy was rescued from the Central station. The rescued children are handed over to the Juvenile Aid Police Unit or the Childline before they are produced before the Child Welfare Committee.
The policemen do not stop with just rescuing the kids. They were instrumental in reuniting at least 80 per cent of the rescued children with their parents. “Police can’t do any inspection without the knowledge of the railway police,” a GRP official said.