Parents smile as their runaway children return home

Parents smile as their runaway children return home

Parents of three dozen runaway kids experienced a barrage of emotions as their children were being ushered into a reunion ceremony at Gandhi Peace Foundation in Delhi on Thursday. 

A score of these children had attended government-run de-addiction and home orientation camps, and 16 were fresh recoveries from the railway platforms of megacities like Delhi and Mumbai. Some 30-35 runaway kids reach New Delhi railway station every day, according to a joint study by two non-profit organisations – Sathi and Prayas.

Rohit Sharma, 14, who had landed at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in Mumbai after running away from his village on the city’s outskirts didn’t show much emotion. But his mother Meera Sharma erupted in a shrill cry, followed by tears.

“I will never let my child go missing again,” she said. Her child was into substance abuse before fleeing home five months ago. But Rohit says he is ahead in life and has plans to undergo a vocational training in mechanics. 

In the room filled with sobbing, the founder members of Sathi, Pramod Kulkarni said, “We organise these events so that ministers can get to know the kind of help these children require.”

He said fund crunch is a major hurdle for NGOs working towards rescuing runaway children. Sathi claims that it relies on donations from private charity groups.

“Previous governments avoided this area. But (Chief Minister) bhai Arvind Kejriwal says that not a single child should be seen on the streets,” said Delhi's Women and Child Development Minister Sandeep Kumar, while giving out an assurance to Kulkarni.
But tales of children who were restored to their parents had more to say.

Two brothers Hrithik, 14, and Chotu, 13, found life on the railway platform unforgiving. The two had left their home in Jahanabad district of Bihar to board a Delhi-bound train.
“We were offered drugs by children who earned a living by collecting garbage. They told us that we could work with them. But I said no to them,” Chotu said, adding that he survived on Rs 1,000 stolen from his parents.

“Father used to force us to study,” Hrithik said, on why he left home. His father told this reporter that his sons lie a lot. Then, he turned towards them and said, “Now that I am in Delhi, I will show you how children are made to work in factories.”

Kamlesh Pandey, programme officer at Sathi, said his organisation checks up on these kids from time to time. “Telephonic and physical follow ups are done after every three months,” he added.

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