15-year-old Sahil (name changed) was rescued by the GRP at Ghaziabad Railway Station on 15th December, 2020. He was accompanied by two other children. When inquired by the CHD team member, he stated that he was a resident of Purnia Bihar and was working as a bonded labourer in a restaurant.

A school dropout now a child labourer

Sahil lives with his family which consists of his parents and siblings (three sisters and two brothers). His father is physically disabled and his mother is a housewife. His older sisters work as housemaids which serves as their sole source of income. The father is unable to work permanently due to his condition and the money he earns through labour occasionally is scarce. The entire family of 8 stays in a rented one-room flat. On further probing it was revealed that the child dropped out of school post 4th grade due to financial constraints. His daily income after a full 10 hours of work is a meagre 300 rupees which is barely enough to sustain his family.

A worried Sahil voices his concerns

During the interaction with the social worker, the child seemed tense and voiced his concerns regarding the current situation. “Bhaiyaji ghar bhej do maa pitaji chinta karenge”, he said. (Please send me back home, my parents will be worried).  The child was working as a mechanic at a motor shop in Delhi prior to the lockdown and was asked to resume work since the lockdown regulations had been relaxed. The child stated that he was hungry as he had not eaten anything on the train in spite of having some money on him. Since his parents were unable to travel to Ghaziabad to receive him he was required to travel back alone. The child was provided with water and biscuits by the social worker at the Child Assistance Booth.

Active efforts to restore the child to his family and assistance provided by RCI

The child was received by the Open Shelter team after the GD, medical and other formalities were complete. On his arrival to the shelter, the child was introduced to the other children along with the daily activities and schedules that needed to be followed. He was also provided with clothes and food and the caregiver ensured that the child felt comfortable and safe while staying at the OS. The child was provided with immediate counselling by the psychologist counsellor at the Open Shelter.

According to the counsellor’s observation, the child seemed to be sincere and introverted; he didn’t have the usual adolescent characteristics like abstract thinking patterns or impulsive behaviour. Rather, he was mature and seemed concerned about his family. The child’s behaviour stemmed from his social environment where his sole focus was responsibility of the family. The child also mentioned to the counsellor how he had to drop out of school at an early age.

The child was informed about the child labour laws in the country and the importance of completing one’s basic education. He was also informed about the various government programs and schemes which his family could avail of and was advised to opt for some sort of vocational training which would help him land a secure job once he was 18 years of age.

At the open shelter, the child was provided with food, clothing and other basic amenities and was constructively engaged through non-formal activity-based learning to enhance his social learning and to help him identify his interests and strengths. During his stay at the open shelter, the child bonded well with his peers. The caretaker says, “The child was very disciplined and obedient. When entrusted with some management tasks he performed them gracefully.” The child was able to learn a lot through his NFE classes and was particularly fascinated with the computer. He managed to acquire basic computer skills in just a month’s time.

Meanwhile, the Child Welfare officer initiated the process to trace the address of the child. He first interacted with the human trafficking unit in Bihar, provided the details of the child and asked them to trace his home with the help of the local administration. The child’s address was traced by the concerned AHTU of Purina -Bihar and it was found that his parents are financially deprived, the father of the child is physically disabled, and the mother is sick, which makes the family unable to travel to the Open Shelter to take their child. The OS team took the initiative and decided to provide financial support to the child’s family so that they could travel for the restoration of their child along with all the subjected documents as instructed by the Child Welfare Officer.

A slow trajectory towards progress

The child spends approximately 28 days a month at home which brought about a tremendous transformation and reinforced an interest in computers within him. The child still attends NFE classes where he is taught basic arithmetic and English.

During the restoration process, the family of the child came to the OS and were provided with a family counselling session with the counsellor where they were briefed about child labour laws and the various child welfare schemes available to help support their child. After receiving the basic orientation, the family expressed gratitude for the support received and said, “Aapki Sanstha ne humare parivar ke liye bahut socha hai aapka dhyanwad jitna kare utna kam hai” (Your organization has been very thoughtful towards our family and our needs, we cannot thank you enough). The family was also advised to enrol the child in vocational training courses along with bridge courses to complete his education.

Post that, the child was sent to CWC Ghaziabad along with his family and restored to his family after due verification of the documents.

Sahil reaches home safely

Based on the latest follow-up of the child and interaction with his father it was revealed that Sahil has reached his home safely and has also started looking for a suitable computer centre where he can enhance his skills. The child says “Sir hum aap sab ko yaad karte hai or hum aage jarur kuch kar dikhayenge”( Sir I miss you all and I will definitely do something meaningful in the future).

The counsellor and NFE teacher also interacted with the child after his restoration and found that the child is currently happily living at his home.