ITS NOT exactly like the sea-facing house in the Hindi film Mr India where Anil Kapoor raises youngsters he has found over the years, but ‘Armaan’, started as a logical step to a noble cause of helping children in distress with ‘Childline’, has all similar elements sans the glamour.
Armaan was recently in news after a seven-month-old girl, found abandoned at the M Y Hospital, was handed over to Childline, Armaan being the next destination.
“It has sort of become a trend, a wrong one at that. Whenever a child is found, police or the MY Hospital authorities ring us up to take care of the child,” says Childline Indore founder Tapan Bhattacharya. Bhattacharya’s Lok Biradari Trust runs the Indore Childline unit, which is part of the nationwide network of Childline India Foundation, Mumbai and Centre’s Women and Child Development Department.
Many cities have Childline but very few have ‘Armaan’ like support homes. Says Childline coordinator Prakash Kumar Sonare, “We first try to locate the child’s family. If that is not possible only then the child goes to Armaan. As far as possible, we try to repatriate the child back to the family.”
Efforts put in by the team do pay off. Since the Indore Childline was started in 2000, it had received about 1,000 abandoned children, out of which, more than 900 have been sent safely to their respective homes. “And not just from Indore, we have traced families all over India, a few even to South Indian states,” adds Bhattacharya.
But not all children can be sent back and it was nearly two years after Childline was started here that Bhattacharya thought of Armaan. “Can’t you keep a child here?” was the question by a small boy, now the eldest at Armaan, who did not want to leave Childline and came back even when he was sent to central shelter home as were others sent till that day.
This became the turning point for Bhattacharya, who then started Armaan in 2002, making it a house of hope for the children in distress.
“But before we think about their future, we need to think about reasons why these children are abandoned by their mothers or parents, in general or why does the child run away from the family,” Bhattacharya broods. For instance, a child, even from a culturally sound background, falls into bad company, a child, particularly girls, are kidnapped by someone or a few run for the heck of it and are taken over by the children on the streets, on the railway platform etc, he says.
“Another point is a mother’s role. If she enters into an illicit relationship, the child faces emotional trauma. There is a chance that the mother may abandon the child if its young or the child may run away if he/she is grown up enough,” adds the social worker.
The poignant question he puts up for us to think over is, “If we are a responsible civil society, why should we punish the child for his parents’ mistake?” But as Childline para-professional Vijaya Sharma puts it, “The fear, the pressure of social stigma is too much, hence the mothers do such things.”
However, running Armaan with 12 children has been no easy task but with the help of good donors from the masses, the Trust has been able to sustain till date. A group of people has come forward to sponsor its monthly vegetable expenses while yet another group has come forward to sponsor children’s school peripheral expenses. Someone gives a month’s rice or wheat yet someone gives some amount on his son’s birthday.
“We somehow manage but its really running ‘Bhagwan bharose’ you see,” Bhattacharya says adding, “Neither the police nor anybody else thinks how we manage these children before sending the abandoned children to us.”