From an attempt to escape abject poverty or harassment by a step-parent, to a wrong move in a fit of rage, the reasons why children run away from their homes could be many, but, for most, the journey culminates at the same point: into a group of drug addicts near railway stations or the world of crime.
If the statistics by the railway police and non-profit organisations are to be believed, the number of juveniles committing crimes has risen drastically. While there are no figures to ascertain the exact number of children landing up at railway stations, falling prey to addiction or getting involved in pettying crimes, authorities claim it holds true for 70% runaway children entering the city. The remaining 30% either end up as child labourers at bag-making, zari or footwear-making units or make a living by begging.
“Many children are seen spending their entire day sniffing white ink on the outskirts of the city. No one knows where these kids have come from or where they are headed. They are there for a few months, in some cases even years, but suddenly they go missing. Such instances are prevalent in case of young girls. The railway police should look into it,” said Sister Jacinta, deputy director of Don Bosco Balprafulta, NGO.
While there is a provision to rescue children who are addicted to drugs and reunite them with their parents, the biggest loophole in the system is the dearth of deaddiction centres. “De-addiction centres are important to ensure the child does not return to crime or addiction. We are taking help from NGOs to take a holistic view of the issue and come up with ways in which it can be overcome,” said Rupali Ambure, deputy commissioner of GRP, Central Railway.