Delhi

‘I don’t want to go back home’

Barely weeks into his stay at a children’s shelter in the city, nine-year-old Arjun (name changed) has developed a special liking for the place and doesn’t want to go back home now.

“I like it over here... We ate pasta in the morning. Sometimes, we get Maggi too,” he said.

Arjun and his younger brother, who were ragpickers, were rescued in an operation coordinated by the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights two weeks ago. They were presented before the Child Welfare Committee and have been sent to the children’s home.

Since then, the duo has made a lot of friends and stopped going around parks collecting bottles.

“They are teaching us the alphabet... I have not memorised the letters yet though. But I want to study. In Patna, we had been to an anganwadi but never to a school,” Arjun added.

He said their father was no more and mother works as a daily-wage labourer.

“We started picking up bottles one year ago. My mother was not aware of it as we used to walk out of our rented house in Delhi after she left for work and came back before she returned,” the nine-year-old said.

Arjun said their elder brother is also a rag picker. “We used to hand over our daily earnings to him after keeping ₹20 to ₹30 to buy chips and samosas,” he said.

Arjun and his younger brother cried a lot when officials found them on the street, but now he smiled when asked about it.

“We thought we were being taken to a jail,” the nine-year-old said, adding, “We always stayed off the main road, but that day we went and were caught.”

A few days ago, Arjun said, a group of children escaped from the shelter at night.

“I would like to stay here. They take other children to parks. Since I am new, I have been taken only once,” he said, adding that his mother, however, doesn’t approve of their stay at the shelter.

About his younger brother, Arjun said, he doesn’t like to study and does not do what the teachers ask him to.

The counsellor at the centre said the younger one is interested in other activities. “We have about 50 children who are below 14 years and most of them used to beg. We give them many activities and slowly take them towards studies,” she said.

When asked whether he gets chips here, Arjun replied, “We don’t get it here. But when people come to visit, they sometimes bring chips and juice.”


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Printable version | Jan 20, 2022 11:32:24 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/i-dont-want-to-go-back-home/article37743488.ece

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