The street urchins who had made the Vadodara railway station their home and ‘workplace’ too after running away from their villages are now gainfully employed in hotels, workshops and the market place of the city. Nearly 60 street children, making a living out of begging and sometimes stealing in and around the Vadodara railway station, are no longer despised by the police and the passengers.
Vocational trainings in trades like embroidery, fabric painting, sewing, motor winding, mobile phone and coin box repairing have helped these street children turn around their lives to transform themselves from urchins to self-employed individuals.
Instrumental in bringing around this transformation is a Vadodara-based NGO Vikas Jyot Trust which also takes similar care of 250 more such children in six other localities of the city known as the cultural capital of Gujarat.
The children, mainly from villages and small towns of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, had run away from their homes either due to abject poverty or torture by a step mother or step father. They begged in and around the station and often stole foodstuff from passengers in the platform.
“Our main aim was to keep them away from anti-social elements”, Project Coordinator Vijaymala Thite told the Hindustan Times about how the idea of ‘Bal Jyot’ began. “Since the Railway Police were always after these children, the NGO volunteers first had to sensitise the police to have a soft corner for them,” she said. With help coming from Western Railway Women’s Association (Vadodara) and cooperation from the RPF, a shelter at the end of renovated platform no. 5 was built where the children are fed and trained from 11 am every day.
As the children do not have any formal education, the best way to rehabilitate them is to give them vocational training that can bring them future employment. A play centre run by the ‘Bal Jyot’ also keeps them busy with indoor and outdoor games.