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Railway children: Living on the edge by the tracks

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  10 May 2016 12:00 AM GMT

An estimated two to four new children arrive at Guwahati railway station every day, according to a study

By Our Staff Reporter

Guwahati, May 9: The Guwahati Railway station underwent a makeover recently, with bright and colourful lights giving it a spectacular look. But that has not helped change the railway station's dark underbelly - it still continues to be a refuge for street children leading a life of distress, prone to various hazards.

An estimated two to four new children arrive at Guwahati railway station every day, according to a study conducted jointly by the Assam State Commission for Protection of Child Rights and Railway Children.

The Railway Childline reported that 135 children were rehabilitated between July 28, 2015 and December 27, 2015 with an average of 27 per month. The data, however, appears to be an underestimate as the Railway Childline does not work at night hours. Another NGO working near the station reported outreaching 20 children every month.

Sixty four children were interviewed in the study, and the data shows that as the girls grow older they shift away from the station, mostly due to security reasons. Forty-five per cent of them were illiterate. Sixteen percent of the children said they were still attending school.

The children apparently left their homes due to extreme poverty or were sent away to take up jobs at a young age.

The data shows that children who had lost their fathers are more likely to be away from the family. However, three-fourth of the children were in touch with their families. Nearly 80 per cent of the children reported that they were working to earn money, a substantial portion of them (45 percent) were into rag-picking, followed by begging (33 percent). Others were engaged in cleaning floors, selling collected diesel and oil or performing street plays. While 22 percent of the children got food from their homes, about a quarter of the children could mage food only once a day.

"There are many vulnerable children in the platforms engaged in different activities. Out of these, some homeless children go away by dark while others stay back at the station," said an RPF official.

According to a local rickshaw-puller, some of the children get involved in stealing valuables from passengers.

"As darkness comes, the scene at Guwahati railway station changes completely, which most people are uware of. Many illegal activities take place here. There are groups of girls and boys, who work in hotels during daytime, and at night become agents for maging customers for girls for sex," said a member of the Coolie Union.

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