In an act not strictly in its list of primary responsibilities, the Indian Railways has been rescuing destitute children who are found in running trains and railway stations and other railway properties.
According to Chandralekha Mukherjee, divisional railway manager of Waltair division of East Coast Railway (ECoR), as many as 75 destitute children including girls were rescued by the division from April to October this fiscal from 117 railway stations in its jurisdiction in Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Chhattisgarh.
“The railways always give top priority to safety and security. Rescuing children of passengers and destitutes is also an important task of the railways. We have succeeded in doing it. The closed circuit television system (CCTV) at the city railway station provided continuous surveillance at the railway platforms,” Mukherjee said.
Out of the 75 children, 37 children were rescued from the Visakhapatnam railway station during the period. According to the railway officials, most of the rescued children hailed from Visakha Agency, Jharkhand and some parts of neighbouring Odisha and Chhattisgarh. Some belonged to the local north coastal districts of Srikakulam and Vizianagaram.
?Railway Protection Force (RPF) inspector for Visakhapatnam railway station B Ramu said the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) formulated specific guidelines to protect children at 20 select major railway stations in the county.
“Though Visakhapatnam railway station is not in the list, we have followed the same guidelines in order to protect the destitute children on humanitarian grounds. We rescue children and hand them over to either their relatives or child welfare homes within 24 hours. If the child is able to provide information about his or her parents or contact numbers then we try to reach them. If the child fails to do so, we will follow the guidelines and rehabilitate him or her accordingly,” Ramu told TOI.
According to the guidelines, any child below 15 years of age wondering alone is rescued, he said. Ramu said that some children intentionally leave their children and come to the railway stations to board trains to go somewhere else in the country and some children are accidentally lost.