Millennium Post

Railways help sought on missing children: Maneka

Railways help sought on missing children: Maneka
Total number of missing children in the country which have been collaborated by Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS) is 95590 [as per data evaluated till 28 February 2015]. The highest number of missing children have been reported in Orissa -19583 followed by Tamil Nadu at a 18952.

Explaining the concept of this novel initiative, Women and Child Development minister Maneka Sanjay Gandhi in an exclusive conversation with Millennium Post said, “We are working with the railway ministry for the initiative and this is perhaps for the first time since independence (after railways was set up) that such a step has been taken. We discovered that the 5 lakh missing children in our country could be divided into – runaway children and missing children. Both of them were being facilitated by the railways.

The railways do not check for ticketless passengers because they have Travelling Ticket Examiner (TTE)s who check for passengers in the reserved compartment and do not go to the unreserved compartments. In an unreserved compartment if there is a runaway child who is travelling it is very difficult to track them. In one month alone we have picked up about 700-800 such children.”

Talking about how will the ministry be able to identify such children and what will be the implementation process of this programme, the minister explained, “The minute such children arrive at a railway station they either have people waiting for them to take them away as labour and then pay them in drugs or they are picked up by a gang of children. Now every compartment will have two to three permanent posters telling passengers that if they notice a child who is unaccompanied then they should inform the concerned authorities. The numbers are printed on those posters.”

“Also booths are being put up across railways stations which will allow the child to use the helpline number 1098 so that designated NGOs will come help and rescue them. We have signed a SOP with railways which ensures that all railway personnel will be trained and sensitised for this programme. They will give a monthly report on how many cases of missing children were reported by them. It is a reward and punishment scheme. We are also putting proper NGOs at stations to look into this issue. We are paying them. We are focusing on 20 stations to begin with and then we will expand to say 200 more. This project is on trial run they it will be put out on a nationwide scale once we assess its functionality,” she said.

The SOP mentions that, “Training and orientation/sensitisation programs on child rights and child protection for the railway employees including officials of the RPF/GRP shall be made a part of all training programs organised at zonal and divisional levels.” Regarding awareness for this the SOP mentioned, “Railways shall permit display of information by WCD ministry at identified major railway stations indicating the location of Child Help Desks at the station. Information, Education and Communication (IEC) material related to this will be developed and made available by National Commission for Protection of Child Rights.”

Apart from this the SOP has a detailed list of guidelines for railway officials to follow to ensure that this initiative a successful one.
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