NGOs help rescue abandoned kids

NGOs  help rescue abandoned kids

Trapped by traffickers, abandoned by families, fleeing their homes... 

Children of a thousand hues land up in Bangalore every day. But only the lucky ones get picked up by the few non-governmental organisations (NGOs) once they arrive at the City’s transportation hubs. The vast majority is absorbed by the City, disappearing into the dark alleys, emerging as heavily exploited hotel labourers, sex workers and dangerous criminals in the making.

The City has a host of NGOs, including the Association for Promoting Social Action (APSA), BOSCO Mane, Paraspara, Sparsha, Navajeevana and Sadashraya, lined up to guide the children to a life away from exploitation and crime. But without a solid structure from the government’s side, the NGOs can address only a small section of this monster of a problem.

Over 60 children are picked up by these NGOs daily at the City Railway Station and Majestic Bus Stand. But the City has grown by leaps and bounds, and child traffickers have found a hundred ways to hoodwink NGO workers and the police. As an APSA member informs, the mafia sources runaway, abandoned and even abducted children from the Northeast, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh and other areas in the North. The young ones are then transported to the outskirts of Bangalore by rail and taken out at stations much before the train enters the City.

The children fortunate enough to be spotted by the NGOs are taken before the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) under the Department of Women and Child Development, and referred to rehabilitation centres. At APSA, for instance, boys could stay up to 14 years and girls up to 19 years. At its Nammane in Annasandrapalya, child labourers, streetchildren, young victims of domestic violence, physical and sexual abuse, runaway children and those rescued from unsafe and difficult situations are given residential support.

APSA also runs a variety of outreach educational programmes for these children. These include creches for slum children to build the schoolgoing habit early to bridge courses and enrolment campaigns to get dropouts and former child labourers back to school. Skill development is another area of focus. Children are trained in desktop publishing, tailoring, electronics and screen-printing and stationery- making. The idea is clearly to plug all loopholes that could drift the children to a life of crime away from the mainstream.

Seasoned activists in the child welfare sector are convinced the scenario could change drastically for the better if the government was better involved. “From the government’s side, there are no viable programmes to engage adolescents. No wonder juvenile crimes are increasing,” says one of them. He wonders why the State government couldn’t actively engage prestigious institutions such as the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences and the National Law School of India University to devise strategies to tackle the problem.

Capturing the vulnerable children in the age group of 14 to 18 years, crime syndicates misuse the provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act. “A lot of adults use these children even for grave crimes, as punishment is relaxed for juveniles. Organised gangs are behind these acts, and youngsters fall victim, lured by the fast bucks on offer. It can’t get more dangerous than this for the civil society,” notes the activist.

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