373 children rescued from Guwahati Railway Station in 2018 - G Plus

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373 children rescued from Guwahati Railway Station in 2018

Saumya Mishra | February 09, 2019 13:00 hrs

GUWAHATI: Railway Childline in Guwahati rescued 373 children from Guwahati railway station between April 1, 2018 till January 30, 2019 informed authorities.   
  
According to the data furnished by the Railway Childline officials, a majority of these children rescued by Railway Childline were runaway children who had either fled from an institution or their homes. 

Authorities informed that apart from the Childline officials, there are many other concerned people and authorities who help them in identifying such children and bringing them to the notice of Childline officials. 
           
Further, out of the 373 children rescued last year, 267 were males and 106 were females. A large number of children are also rescued when the officials go for outreach programmes to create awareness, said an official. 


Childline is a programme under the Ministry of Women & Child Development (MWCD) meant for the safeguard of children in need of care and protection. Further, Railway Childline is an initiative of the MWCD and the Railways; it works to provide emergency rescue, security and protection services to runaway, orphans, possibly trafficked children and child labourers at railway stations. 

Additionally, in 2016-17, the officials rescued 321 children, while this figure rose to 386 in 2017-18.
  
As per the data, the number of run-away children identified by Railway Childline in the past two years has seen a considerable increase. While there were 61 runaway children rescued from Guwahati railway station in 2016-17, this rose to 286 in 2017-18. Further, 263 children were rescued from April to November in 2018.

After being rescued, the children are produced before the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) for further proceedings and rehabilitation.

“The Guwahati Railway Childline is the only one in the entire northeast. This makes our work a little difficult since the traffickers can easily take a different railway route to traffic children from Assam and the northeast,” Abani Haloi, co-ordinator of Guwahati Railway Childline told G Plus. 
  
He added that this initiative (Railway Childline) of the central government was much- needed since usually the railway authorities have very limited knowledge and sensitivity towards issues and laws related to child rights. 
   
The initiative was initially started in 20 railway stations in the country, but has now spread to over 88 stations across India.   
   
Haloi further mentioned that railway stations are an easy escape route for child traffickers and that areas with railway connectivity are highly prone to trafficking. 

Additionally, as per the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data, in 2015, Assam topped the list of states with the highest number of child trafficking cases with a total of 1,317 registered cases. The state contributed the highest percentage contribution at 37.7 percent to the all-India total.  

Experts believe that it is because of the socio-economic and political realities, such as conflict and marginalisation of communities in hill areas, agricultural crisis and displacement; there are a lot of people – mainly women and children – who are deceitfully trafficked or they go out looking for alternative occupations which finally becomes unsafe migration and they get stuck in this vicious cycle of exploitation. 

Officials say that Guwahati is fast becoming a “source centre” for trafficking children to other states of the northeast as well as places like Haryana, Delhi, Punjab and Kolkata.


Most child protection agencies lack resources 

Many of the child protection agencies in the state are under-resourced, say authorities. They feel that the shortage of manpower and resources prevent them from fully utilising their potential.
    
“Anti-human trafficking units do not have adequate manpower and resources. On the other hand, the police have a long way to go to become child-friendly since people are scared to respond in police cases and children are scared to approach the police. So, this is a combination of factors which leads to the breakdown of child protection system of the state, which is why children are very vulnerable,” said an official.
          
Further, authorities say that the number of cases registered in the city against trafficking of children reflects only a small percentage of the total cases.  

“It is difficult to get a fair idea about the nature and extent of trafficking by looking at the number of registered cases since it is carried out mostly in a concealed manner, especially in the remote areas and villages,” said former secretary of the Assam State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (ASCPCR), Anuja Bhuyan. 

According to child protection experts, children who are trafficked or kidnapped, already suffer a vulnerability which might be economic as well as social. Further, children living in tea garden areas, hill areas, conflict areas and places which are prone to floods are more vulnerable to get trafficked since the continued deprivation in these zones makes them hot spots for trafficking. 

The state government, on its part, has established anti-human trafficking units (AHTU) in all districts of Assam in order to combat human trafficking, especially of women and children. For this, the district superintendents of police have been assigned the task to monitor these units. Officials informed that the SPs work in collaboration with the civil society, NGOs working in the field, panchayat members and government agencies to identify vulnerable areas for human trafficking.

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