Focus: Children and Youth

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

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.

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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 ₹1.5lakh each, often end with tears of joy for parents, children and staff.

Rescue and Reunification

SATHI’s outreach team work on 13 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 the 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 ₹4,000 to rescue one child.


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

  • Basavaraj Shali Secretary
  • Rajshekhar Programme Manager
  • Rohit Shetti Advocacy and Networking Officer