Trafficked Children Shepherded to Safety

It was in the evening of the 15th of March when our team found a group of five children sitting near the ticket counter at a railway station. A man, who stood at a distance, was observed signaling instructions to the children. It all didn’t seem quite right. Our team sensed malice in what they saw and discreetly began following the group of children. In the meantime, one of our team members informed the on-duty Railway Protection Force (RPF) team. The RPF acted swiftly and approached the group of children. Upon enquiring about the person accompanying the children, they found that his name was Amit Kumar (name changed) and that he was indeed trafficking the children. A first information report was duly filed against him and he was taken under custody under the relevant laws. The children were then handed over to the Child Help Desk (CHD) team for further steps.

The children didn’t fully understand what was happening and were extremely nervous. They feared that they would end up in a prison too, but our friendly team at CHD comforted them and offered food and water to the children. They duly counseled the children about their rights and the Child Labour Act. The children were ensured that they would be returned to their home safely; indeed, the children felt at ease upon understanding that they were in safe hands, and they began sharing their stories willingly. In the meantime, the CHD team contacted their parents and facilitated their communication with them. The parents were then informed about the due procedure for their children’s safe return.

Out of School and Off to Chandigarh

The children belonged to lower-middle-class families; their families managed to fulfill the basic day-to-day needs with great difficulties. The children shared that they had dropped out of school due to parental pressure and were going to Chandigarh, Punjab to work at a dhaba (a roadside diner) as instructed by their parents. The children had no clue about that kind of work they would be required to do at the dhaba, but they were told that they would have to work for 12 hours every day, in return for which their parents would earn Rs. 5000 at the end of each month. It was during the counseling session that further details about their stories emerged.

Money Matters & Money Lenders

The parents of these children had coerced them into working at a dhaba in Chandigarh along with their neighbour (a child labour contractor) due to the financial crises they faced. The children were aware of the pressures from money lenders who visited their doorsteps every day, so they believed that they could help their parents by doing as they said. Consequently, this meant that the children would have to drop out of school.

Finding Safety at a Baal Grih

Further in the counseling session, the children were educated about the ills of child labour, as to why it was unconstitutional, and the importance of a formal education for a better life. They were also told about their rights and informed about the Juvenile Justice Act.

Following all the necessary formalities the children were produced before the Child Welfare Committee, which gave the permission for them to be temporarily sheltered in a baal grih (children’s home) in Darbhanga, Bihar where they are currently being looked after.