The lives of children amidst the current crisis is in a conundrum, multiplying their vulnerabilities, as their families deal with harsh new realities everyday. The story of Karan is one such story, putting the impact of the virus on childhoods, into the spotlight.
A LIFE LESS ORDINARY
In mid-February, our team found 16 year old Karan (name changed) in a desperate situation at the Raipur Railway Station. With the help of the Government Railway Police (RFP) he was repatriated with his family on the same day. It was after several visits to Karan’s home in Gudhiyari, located 2 kms away from the Railway station, that the team was able to piece together Karan’s real story. When Karan was only 8 years old, his father abandoned the family, without anyone’s knowledge. For a long time, they were unaware of his whereabouts, until they discovered through their relatives, that he has remarried. With the sole responsibility of looking after 3 young children, Karan’s mother put a stone on her heart, and took on odd jobs, to bring food to the table, never trying to reach out to her husband again.
Within a week of his rescue, our team discovered Karan’s interest in vocational training and enrolled Karan for a course run by a local NGO – Chetna Women and Child Welfare Society, in Durg, a neighbouring city to Raipur, to help him use his time and skills constructively, preparing him for the workforce and a decent job in the future.
On the 21st of March, the day the lockdown hit India, Raipur too was affected badly. The economic fallout of the lockdown was brutal on Karan’s family. His mother who worked as domestic help, bringing in the largest chunk of their income, lost her job. Karan’s brother who was a recovering alcoholic, had to stop his counselling sessions, and sit at home too, without the security of his job. His sister, studying in 7th grade, sat at home, as schools across the country were shut down too.
“Mera ek sapna tha ki mera bada beta bada hokar mera hath batayega lekin use sharab ki lat lag gayi. Jiske karann mere sare sapne bikhad gaye” – “I was dreaming of the day my elder son would grow up, and support me. But unfortunately, he got into the habit of drinking alcohol,” said Karan’s Mother.
Karan’s mother has hoped that after her children were educated, they would grow up to support her financially. But her dream turned on its head, when her son older son dropped out of school while in the 8th grade, under the influence of bad company.
Today, Karan’s brother is 24 years old and works as a labourer in a ration shop in Raipur. His earnings are squandered over alcohol, leaving little to support his family. Often, under the influence of alcohol, he would come home and beat his mother up. It was soon after that Karan found out, and dropped out of school to stay and home and protect her. Karan was in the 5th grade when he dropped out from the school. He works at restaurants and roadside dhabas as a dish washer, to supplement his mother’s income.
Recollecting his memories – “Mai roz school jata tha lekin meri darubaaz bhai se meri maa ko bachane ke liye mujhe school chhodna pada” – “I used to go to school every day, but I had to discontinue my study and stay at home to protect my mother from my alcoholic brother,” said Karan.
This was the reason why Karan left home.
On the 12th of February, a similar incident occurred and Karan had a squabble with his drunk brother, and left home. Distraught and angry, Karan decided he wanted to leave home and look for work in Mumbai, away from home. That is when our team found him alone at the Raipur Railway Station and learnt his story. Karan was taken to the to Child Help Desk for further support, when he expressed his desire to learn a vocation.
THE FALL OUT OF THE COVID19 CRISIS & RAILWAY CHILDREN INDIA’S RESPONSE
From the day of the lockdown, not only was Karan’s family at a high-risk of no income and livelihood, but also extremely vulnerable to contracting the virus, as they lived in densely populated slums, with poor sanitation and hygiene conditions.
By the time we reached to Karan’s family, they were struggling to arrange their daily meals as they had no saving at all. “Bandi ne mere pure parivaar ki zindagi kharab kar di hai. Iski wajah se mere malik ne mujhe kaam par aaane ko mana kar diya yah keh kar ki unhe mujhse bimari lag sakti hai. Mera bada sudhar raha tha aur naukaari par lag gaya tha lekin uski naukari bhi chali gayi. Meri beti ka school bhi band ho gaya aur jis bete ko durg bhejkar padhane ka sapna dekha tha wo bhikhad gaya” – “Due to lockdown, our situation has become worse. My employers have removed me from the job saying, they might get the infection because of me! Even my elder son has lost his job and is sitting idle at home. My daughter’s school has been closed and my younger son who was readying to go to Durg to pursue his training with the support of Railway Children India, couldn’t go due to the shutdown. All my dreams have been shattered,” said Karan’s mother.
Our team in Raipur is courageously combating this crisis and reaching out to families and supporting them with food, dry ration and other daily essentials. They reached out to 6 families in the same area, with a dire need for daily essentials. The team is also educating them on washing hands and other hygiene practices.
There are many more children’s families across the state who are in distress and in need of daily essentials. Railway Children India is committed to reach out to vulnerable children and their families and protect them from the ongoing crisis.
To help us help children like Karan, DONATE HERE
Scan the QR code with any UPI app below to DONATE.
1) Railway Children India is not responsible for any individual who uses this content inappropriately for monetary or personal gains. 2) The Razor Pay donation page is a safe, authenticated and verified payment gateway for Railway children India.