Running for kids on rail platforms
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About the NGO
Kishan was one among the 1lakh children who run away from home every year in India. He lived with his uncle in Bihar’s Basti district when he left school to work in a snack factory 30km away, then abandoned that a month later to explore Delhi.
He soon spent the ₹1,500 he'd earned and was sleeping rough on the station platform when SATHI found him. After rehabilitation, the 15-year-old is now back with his family and at school.
Kishan was lucky. Less than half the 6,000 minors who turn up at the New Delhi station every year are rescued between SATHI (Society for Assistance to Children in Difficult Situations) and other NGOs.
And that’s just one station, in one city.
SATHI operate in more than a dozen stations in India and have rescued nearly 60,000 children till date, most of whom return home in five or six days. Sadly, that accounts for under 10% of the number that require help. One statistic claims “Every five minutes a child arrives alone on a platform in India.”
Acutely aware of the need to scale up operations, SATHI, who have worked with other NGOs in different locations since 2002, managed to rescue 10,000 children last year, doubling their annual target.
But the very nature of such work is challenging.
SATHI workers scour platforms from morning to night on the look out for vulnerable children – and rescue an average of 40 a day. Onlookers often confront them and question their intentions – especially if a male worker is trying to intervene to save a girl child.
Plus, sometimes the minor has been homeless for too long and requires proper care, counseling, de-addiction and reorientation before he can be reintegrated into family life. Or, if that’s impossible, placed in a shelter home.
SATHI do not close the case once the child returns to his family but do regular follow-up calls to make sure he is safe. This can also mean support for education, medical treatment and mental health services.
But as founder Pramod Kulkarni says, rescuing a new runaway is key: “Early intervention not only saves the child from the dangers of platform life, but also makes repatriation easier as the child is more willing to go back home.”
With the scale and urgency of rescuing India’s 1lakh railway children, SATHI need all the help they can get.