Childline launched its annual “Childline se dhosti” awareness week programme by organising a puppet show at Tambaram railway station on Nov. 16. Three non governmental organisations, Nesakkaram – SEEDS (Street Elfins Education and Development Society), Marialaya and Indian Council for Child Welfare organised the puppet show along with Railway Protection Force and Government Railway Police.
The theme of the puppet show centred round the kind of abuse children faced and how public reacted, including calling Childline (1098).
For all sections of society
Volunteers from the NGOs said the “Childline se dhosti” (friendship with Childline) awareness week was held each year to create awareness among all sections of the society on the problems faced by children relating to abuse, labour and other forms of violence.
They launched the programmes in Tambaram considering the huge number of runaway children who arrive in this part of the city from neighbouring as well as southern districts of the Tamil Nadu.
According to them, the maximum number of runaway children reaching Tambaram by long distance trains and buses hailed from Cuddalore, Villupuram, Madurai and Theni districts.
Poverty and broken families were the important causes for these children to runaway from their homes. Children who alight at Egmore are mostly who had fled their homes in Andhra Pradesh and from districts bordering Tamil Nadu.
The volunteers said they visited the offices of the Chennai Police Commissioner, the headquarters of Railway Protection Force and other offices and tied ‘suraksha bandhan' to officers besides conducting similar awareness programmes in some city schools before culminating in a massive event at Marina Beach.
Thanking the Southern Railway administration, RPF and GRP, the volunteers from the different NGOs said intervention from the government agencies and support from the society was important for uniting these runaway children with their families.
Speaking to Downtown, the volunteers said children seeking alms at railway stations, bus stops and other public places had increased. They pointed out that the NGOs and police authorities came across more than 100 runaway children in Tambaram, Egmore and Chennai Central Railway stations. In many cases, it was simply impossible to trace their native village as the children would be too young to recall the name of their hometown or even their parents' names.
Help for distressed children
Most of them were children of families migrating from other districts of Tamil Nadu or poverty stricken districts of neighbouring Andhra Pradesh. To watch out for runaway children alighting from long distance trains, volunteers of NGOs would be on duty at important railway stations.
Volunteers also help children in distress. They say that they receive more than two dozen calls everyday relating to children being assaulted by parents and relatives. They also try to help minor girls who are sexually assaulted.
Readers, commuters and the general public who come across runaway children in important railway stations, a child being subject to harsh labour or abuse can call 1098 anytime of the day or night.