“We all hail from a village in Madhubani, Bihar. Unable to meet our most basic needs, my father had taken a loan from a moneylender, but despite many struggles he was unable to pay it back. That’s when I was asked to drop out of school and work at a dhaba in Chandigarh, and the contractor uncle brought me and my friends on a train to Darbhanga.” said Shiva who was rescued at Darbhanga Railway Station.
On 15th March 2020 around 4:50 PM when our spotted a group of 5 children sitting near the Ticket Counter at Darbhanga Railway Station. The team observed that an adult was guiding the children and instructing them to maintain distance from each other. Sensing threat, the team started following the children at the platform and keeping a keen eye on their movements. Suspecting that it might be a case of trafficking, the team informed the RPF and RPF who immediately rushed to the location. The RPF team intervened in the matter and started asking the man who was accompanying the children. In the meanwhile, all 5 children were taken to the CHD after talking to them and analyzing the potential risk to their lives. It was uncovered that the man was taking the children to work at a catering company in Chandigarh. The trafficker was immediately arrested and sent to judicial custody, while the children were provided with immediate care and protection.
Initially, the children were nervous and worried, but counsellor comforted them by sharing how the CHD helps children return to their families and go back home. This helped the children gain trust with the team members and share their personal details. The children were also told about the child labour act in India and the implications of it, along with the importance of children going to school instead of work. All the children shared about the financial struggles they faced due to coming from poor families, and the pressure to leave school. They had decided to take on work at a Dhaba in Punjab with a contractor and encouraged by their parents owing to their extreme poverty. The only information they had was that they would have to work for twelve hours a day and their parents would receive approximately INR 5000/- a month, but no real clarity or conformation for the same. Understanding their parents’ circumstances, one child shared that his family had taken a loan from a money lender, who came to their house almost every day and the family had no other option but to send him to work to repay the debt.
After a long chat with the counsellor, the children were convinced that the best option for them would be to go back to school and educate themselves in order to secure a stable future for themselves.
After undertaking all the formalities and filling up all the relevant forms and documents the children were produced before CWC and with their permission the children were given temporary shelter at the Government Children’s home in Darbhanga. Later, our counsellor visited the Children’s home to further counsel the children and trace their families. During the counselling, the children shared that they are from Madhubani district from the same village. All of the children’s parent were contacted and agreed to come to Darbhanga to take their children back home. It was planned, they would be restored soon, but due to the lockdown in the state, their restoration process was delayed.
Shiva is one of the million childhood faces in India. Railway Children India’s initiative – #BehindEveryFace, is an attempt to uncover and discover the story behind every child’s face, that is waiting to be told. By shaping the loftier narrative of childhoods in India and giving a space to everyone to share their stories of younger days, we aim to build a collection of children’s stories, that are a testament to their lives.