CHENNAI: With child traffickers preferring to take the rail route, Childline India Foundation has launched two round-the-clock childline centres on the platforms of Egmore and Chennai Central Railway Stations to rescue entrapped children.
“Railways is the preferred network for such cases,” says Nishit Kumar, head communications and strategies initiative at Childline India Foundation. For instance, of the 9.50 lakh rescue calls the Southern Regional Centre of Childline India received in the last four months, officials say most of the children are brought by rail.
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“Children come alone or in groups, and many easily fall prey to antisocial elements,” Nishit adds. In the past one year, the Government Railway Police and Railway Protection Force have referred around 400 cases of trafficked and runaway children to child protection centres, a worrying piece of statistic, considering the fact that this is only a part of the actual figure of missing children.
As the numbers are rising over the years, officials too feel that extra hands would be of immense help. “There are only around four or five RPF officials at each station. While there is a nodal officer for child protection, the personnel may not be available all the time, as he or she has many other routine responsibilities. This move is a big help indeed,” says Seema Agarwal, Inspector General, Government Railway Police, Tamil Nadu. The two centres set up on the platforms of Egmore and Chennai Central Railway Stations are being handled by Arunodhaya Centre for Street and Working Children and Brother Siga Social Service Guild, respectively.
The move came after the Ministry of Women and Child Development signed an MoU with the Indian Railways earlier this year and assigned responsibilities to certified NGOs to help children in need of care and protection. “We initially used to conduct outreach activities at railway stations, but that was temporary. This move provides a permanent solution,” says Virgil D’Sami, executive director of Arunodhaya. Both booths have been provided with a 6x6 space, a desk and a telephone. Each booth is manned by 12 volunteers, including a counsellor working on shifts and monitoring the premises. “We will also be coordinating with the Child Welfare Committee and Juvenile Justice Board. We will make sure that the child in need of help is safe,” Virgil adds.
Childline India Foundation has also been in talks with the Railways to set up a ‘Hotlink’, a non-handle sensor-telephone-device, which can connect a child in need of care with the volunteers at the rescue centres. “Despite there being mobile phones everywhere, there is a dire need for telephone booths,” says Nishit. Activists further say that most of these kids are either bonded labourers, runaways or lost. “Southern India is the most urbanised region in the country and there is a huge market for cheap labour here. With the new facility, we might get more rescue calls,” adds Nishit.
19/200 Get Nod
The Union Ministry of Women and Child Development has identified 200 railway stations in the country to set up railway childline centres. Of this, 19, including Chennai Central, Egmore, Howrah, Ranchi, Bengaluru and Hyderabad, have been given clearance