Prayas Railway Children

Name of Project :- Prayas Railway Children (2004)
State :- Delhi / Bihar
Areas :- covered- Railway Station, Samastipur, Bihar & New Delhi Railway Station, Delhi
Working with Street & Railway Children, Beggars

The Beginning......
Prayas with the support of Railway Children, U.K., for the first time, initiated its activities for Railway Children in the year 2004. Initially it started with its work at Samastipur railway station, Bihar and New Delhi Railway Station, Delhi. The aim of these projects was to ensure the protection, care, support and development of the run-away and abandoned children at the respective railway stations. Gradually, it increased its ambit of activities to other major railway stations in other parts of the country joining hand with several national and international partners, the railway authorities from the highest to lowest levels, RPF and the RWWA.

A child running away from home usually catches train, often with no destination in mind .Once it reaches a railway platform which is often of metro city they become easy prey to criminals. Most of the children who had eloped from their homes make the platform their home where within no time they learn to survive with no protection, supervision, or guidance from responsible adults. Under these circumstances they become prone to adopting criminal behavior and soon become victims of exploitation, sexual abuse and criminals and unlawful activities. These criminals not only rob the passengers and are menace to the travelling passengers on the train of platforms but are a constant threat to the society at large when they trap the young and innocent children loitering on the railway stations and take them in their clutches who sometimes force them for sexual abuse and taken to activities that are prohibited by law to earn living.

Railway Prayas Project in collaboration with Northern Railways with the support of railway women welfare organization and Railway Children, U.K., started in July, 2004 with the purpose of identifying and providing shelter for homeless, street and working children, missing children, orphans and children in need of care and protection. Initially, the project started with a drop-in shelter at Lahori Gate and outreach work at New Delhi Railway Station with the help of a Child Assistance Booth. The purpose behind the establishment of the Prayas Railway Children Project was is in close proximity to New Delhi Railway Station and Sadar Bazaar Market, Hanuman Mandir, Connaught Place Nizamuddin Railway Station, Old Delhi Railway Station where there are the largest concentration of street working, destitute and homeless children who were fighting for their livelihood on the street. The Drop-in centres were started with the purpose of providing care and protection to these children. Later on, already functional night shelter at Nabi Karim was also linked to the project as another drop-in centre in 2006.

In an another major development, Prayas collaborated with another voluntary organization SAATHI to collectively run the project in October, 2005 and successfully ran the project jointly till August, 2008.During the period, vigorous outreach activities and repatriative-rehabilitative activities to help the children at railway platforms and were carried out taking the project to a new height. Meanwhile, Prayas, based on the success achieved with the help of New Delhi Railway Station outreach activities and Child Assistance Booth, succeeded in getting a similar Child assistance Booth at Old Delhi Railway Station and initiated outreach activities there also.

After September, 2008, an U.K. based philanthropic organization SAGA Charitable Trust which was already supporting Prayas since, 2007 along with some other funding organizations, became the single partner cum financial supporter to Prayas. Since then, till now, SAGA Charitable Trust is continuously supporting Prayas to run the project.

In June 2010 the Lahori Gate Shelter is certified as Children’s Short Stay Home of 4 month. The shelter is certified for 25 children of capacity at one time. The Child Welfare Committee refers children to the shelter as per vacancy and accommodation. After this successful years in 2011 the Nabi Karim drop in shelter Certified as Open Shelter under ICPS Scheme which capacity is 25 children.

At, Samastipur, Bihar, Prayas started dialogue with the railway authorities and the platform children in March, 2004.This was a part of a broader intervention strategy of Prayas to work with the marginalized children in Bihar, particularly at Samastipur. In the month of May, 2004, Prayas team got permission from Railway Protection Force to use their building premises for the day-care-centre activities. The team could also start a mid-day meal programme using their own local resources. In June 2004, the Day Care Centre was inaugurated formally. Similarly, a space was provided by fire brigade where Prayas team and children could assemble and mutual discuss regarding the merits and demerits of staying at railway platforms and running away from homes. a school was also started there for such children where a lady constable took self responsibility to educate them at the primary level. In the meantime, Prayas contacted the UK based Railway Children, the best known railway children organization and received support for this initiative. Railway Children, decided to support the project for three years in principle, commencing from July 2004.

Later, Prayas also started its night shelters and Alternative Education programmeS with the help of the railway authorities at Samastipur, followed by setting up of a Child Assistance Booth as a contact point at platform of Samastipur railway station. Currently, Prayas with the help of the railway authorities, is functional at various key places in Bihar, like, Samastipur, Patna, Supaul and Motihari and continuously caters to the needs of the children in need of care and protection with especial focus on railway platform children.

Goal of project
Developing child friendly outreach services for protection, care, rehabilitation and reintegration of children inhabiting, transiting, and working on railway stations and adjacent tourist locations in Delhi and their repatriative and rehabilitative services in Bihar.

* Conduct early and mid-term interventions surveys to assess the magnitude and gravity of the issues and understanding profiling of the children.
* Ensure a child friendly outreach at New Delhi Railway station and other important railway stations in Delhi.
* Replicate a model of integrated services with a focus on meeting immediate needs of care, protection and repatriation of railway children which was developed at New Delhi Railway station.
* Bring out long term improvements in children’s lives through development and recognition of children’s rights.
* Bring out long term improvements in children’s lives through development and recognition of children’s rights.
* Develop a coordination and networking approach with railways, railway children partners, government agencies and other initiatives that the implementation of the project in Delhi and Bihar.
* Develop networking and advocacy programs for policy formulation to protect the children working at railway platforms across the country.
*Reintegrate the children with their families.

Justification of the project
Since its inception, Prayas has tried to restore childhood to all those children who are on the brink of starvation and deprivation. Children that Prayas works for are those fighting their daily battle for survival as rag pickers, shoeshine boys, street vendors, domestic helpers or even beggars. They are children living on and off the streets at the mercy of the elements of nature, criminals, and drug addicts. Many of these children are subjected to violence, abuse and exploitation followed by disorientation and delinquency ending up in a life of abandonment and social alienation. The number of such children in the National Capital Territory (NCT) of Delhi is found to be about 0.5 million, according to surveys conducted by NGOs, the slum and shanty settlement population is about 40.2. Percent of the 14 million people inhabiting Delhi. It is also estimated by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Govt. of India that nearly 35 million children are in need of care and protection in the country, who need special efforts to bring them into safety net of development.

Various studies and Census reports including the ones conducted by the Prayas Juvenile Aid Center Society, the parent organization of Prayas Childline Project, estimates that more than 40 percent of such children are those who run away from Bihar and other parts of the country and the railway stations are the central points where they spend time before leaving for their destinations in the city of other cities to earn a living. As a consequence, they make their living miserable while indulging in all sorts of activities ranging from small odd jobs to pretty and most heinous crimes which are committed on a regular basis not only at the railway platforms but also on the streets o f the bigger cities to small towns and in the residential areas, posing a serious problem to administration and the police department.

A survey conducted to ascertain the family backgrounds of such children revealed that they mostly belong to poor families with illiterate parents who support their life and families from low-economic activities where profit equals just the cost of labor. Rag picking is a common activity among such children. Their families live in dire poverty and parents take to drinking and spending most of their time at home quarreling amongst them using abusive language without any reason. These children are often beaten mercilessly and frustration in life makes them leave their homes to make their peaceful existence elsewhere. Many of these children do not have their families in the cities since they run away from their hometowns.

The National Human Rights Commission of India has recently estimated that nearly 60 thousand children go missing in the country annually and they join the millions of “No Where Children??? who keep on migrating from place to place, railways being the major transit and habitat. Among 60 to 70 million out of school children and 35 million children in extremely difficult circumstances, huge number in the country get sucked into child trafficking and their forms of crimes and exploitation. These migratory children keep on travelling from poorer state like Bihar in the country to cities like Delhi, which act like magnets for them. Prayas as an inter-state organization, operating particularly in poverty stricken states Bihar and Delhi, has set up projects on the Railways and other tourism and travel locations. During the past couple of years, Prayas has been able to create holistic programs for nearly 4000 children between Delhi and Bihar, providing them direct services towards their rescue, care, protection, development, rehabilitation and social reintegration back to their families.

During this period, while getting substantial support from SAGA Charitable Trust, Sathi and the railways organization’s Prayas has been able to set up significant programs and activities from the point of direct service delivery towards the children in extreme distress to the senior most levels of railways and government management and policy formulation and implantation.

New Delhi Railway Station is the central point from where mail/ express trains either originate or pass through for different destinations and locations in India. The other important locations transited by children and tourists and covered by Prayas in these Projects happen to be in Patna, the capital of Bihar and Samastipur, a major railway junction. With the slender employment opportunities available in other states in India at large, there has been a steep rise in the mobility of the population seeking employment in big cities, especially in Delhi being the capital city and its suburban areas in other states. While the railways have increased the number of trains, there is always a great rush of passengers and a sizeable number of such people are also stranded at the stations. Tired and exhausted, these passengers become an easy prey to criminals who often relieve them of their belongings such as luggage lifters, etc. and find the railway premises an excellent place for their nefarious activities to grow and flourish. These criminals not only rob the passengers but are also a menace to the travelling passengers on the train of platforms and are also a constant threat to the society at large when they trap the young and innocent children loitering on the railway stations and take them in their clutches who sometimes force them for sexual abuse and taken to activities that are prohibited by law to earn a living. These vulnerable children are not born criminals but are bewildered due to lack of care, protection and development opportunities. Since they have no guidance or direction, they become victims of compulsion with none to show them the path to make meaningful start in their life.

Our long association with these children gave us the experience that the problem of Railway Children is neither aimlessness nor delinquency but has genesis with many socio-systematic issues. A recent baseline survey conducted by Prayas JAC team on Old Delhi Railway Station reflected magnitude of the problem, vulnerability and pathetic life condition of these runaway or drifting children. The survey was done for five days and found 795 children loitering around on New Delhi Railway Station. If these children who landed up unattended, were not attended immediately, chances were that they might fall prey to child trafficking.

Similarly, Prayas found that Samastipur, Bihar, being one of the major railway divisions in Bihar, from where about 50 trains originate or pass through every day, was an attractive habitat for the abandoned and platform children because of the potential scope for making livelihoods at the station and in the neighboring markets. Prayas also observed that at anytime, about 50 children were found at the station with many children travelling in-between the neighboring stations like Barauni, Darbangha, Mussazarpur, and so on. So, it is felt that there is a need to start some initiative for children there also.

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