“What will I get to eat if I return home? There is no food, money, or a proper bed to sleep. On the streets, I was at least earning some money and sleeping after having some food. My parents are not able to take care of me. They work as daily wage labourers and already have many children. It will be better that I stay at the shelter home. If you can’t keep me here, please send me back from where you rescued me.”
This was what a child, rescued by the Noida Police under Operation Smile recently, had to say when asked for details of his parents. More than a dozen of the 303 children rescued by the police under the month-long drive have refused to return to their homes and “a life of poverty”.
Of the total rescued children, the police successfully reunited 235 with their families across the country and the remaining 68 are lodged at shelter homes in Noida and Meerut. Fifteen of these children have reportedly refused to give details of their families and said they preferred to stay at the shelters.
“When our teams asked the children to give their parents’ details, they refused and said they would prefer to stay at the shelter homes or return to the places where they were working,” said Vishwajeet Srivastava, superintendent of police, crime branch, Gautam Budh Nagar. The police said a majority of these children are from West Bengal, Odisha, and other eastern states.
District magistrate NP Singh said the local administration of these children’s hometowns will have to take care of the issue.
“According to the law, juveniles who have parents cannot take any decision regarding their future. The police will have to take the children to their hometowns to meet their parents at least once. If the parents are found not to be in a condition to take care of the child or the child refuses to stay with them, then the local administration will have to take care of the matter,” he said.