Focus: Children and Youth, Homelessness, Anti-trafficking

BEFORE traffickers, drug lords and paedophiles get to runaway children on railway platforms, SATHI attempt to rescue and reunite them with their families.

Santhosh was one among the 5,000 children who seek shelter in Bangalore Station every year. He left school first, then his home in Varanasi, lured by a ‘lucrative’ job in a city 1,800km away.

He abandoned the job too after being beaten by his boss and slept rough on the station platform before SATHI found him. After a period of rehabilitation, the 14-year-old is now back with his family and has returned to school.

Santhosh was lucky. Between SATHI (Society for Assistance to Children in Difficult Situations) and other NGOs they manage to save less than half the minors who turn up at Bangalore Station.

And that’s just one station, in one city.

SATHI operate in more than a dozen stations in India and have rescued and reunited nearly 50,000 children till date. Sadly, that accounts for under 10 per cent 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, aim to rescue at least 5,000 children annually – a majority of whom can be returned home in five or six days.

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, counselling, 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 railway children - about 100,000 - SATHI need all the help they can get.

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Rescue and Reunification

SATHI’s outreach team work on 15 major railway platforms in India, constantly on the lookout for lost or runaway children. When spotted, team members approach them in a friendly manner and take them to a nearby shelter where counsellors and caretakers orient the child towards going back home. Once parents are traced, they are invited to first interact with the counselors and, if key conditions are met, the child is restored back to the family. It costs Rs 4,000 to rescue one child.

Home Orientation Camps

MINORS, away from home for a long time, are often habitual runaways or have deviant behavior, including substance abuse. For such children, who need intensive intervention, SATHI conduct month-long residential camps in batches of 25 to 30, where through activities such as yoga and games, sessions on health and drug abuse and non-formal education, the child is reoriented towards family life. The camps, which cost Rs 1.5lakh each, often end with tears of joy for parents, children and staff.


Thanks to the efforts of SATHI, most of these children now have dreams of studying hard and becoming doctors, teachers, engineers and police officers. We hope that SATHI continues to enrich many more such dreams and help them blossom into reality.

Neha Dua, The Better India, Bangalore

Fantastic work! Real pleasure to see how children are being helped.

Amrit Dhillon, journalist, New Delhi

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