Child-rescue initiative ‘Nanhe Farishte’ to be replicated across the country

A total of 523 children were rescued from Yesvanthpur, Krantiveera Sangolli Rayanna, and other railway stations in 2018.  

Operation Nanhe Farishte, a dedicated child-rescue initiative by the Railway Protection Force (RPF) of the South Western Railways (SWR), will be replicated across the country.

The initiative will operate under the same name with dedicated child helpdesks operating from all nominated A and A1 stations. The decision was taken at a Railway Board meeting recently.

‘Nanhe Farishte’ — meaning Little Angles — was an initiative taken by D.B. Kasar, Chief Security Commissioner, RPF of SWR, in July 2017, with a dedicated team of rescuers to identify and prevent the inflow of children who are illegally brought to the city, mainly to work as child labourers. Apart from Bengaluru, it was also implemented in Mysuru and Hubballi.

2,235 rescued

SWR, with the help of a few non-governmental organisations, has rescued over 2,235 children from July 2017 to March 2019. The rescued were victims of child labour, bonded labour, prostitution, organ-trade rings, and a few runaways. A total of 416 children were rescued in Bengaluru, in 2017, while 523 were rescued in 2018 from Krantiveera Sangolli Rayanna Railway station, Yesvanthpur Railway station, and other stations.

Debasmita Chattopadhyaya Banerjee, Senior Divisional Security Commissioner, Railway Protection Force of SWR, who has been supervising the operation since its inception, said it was a welcome move and one that needed immediate attention across the country. “Though the Indian Railways has systems to check human trafficking, it does not have a dedicated team for this. This prompted us to take up the initiative,” she said.

Legal angles

However, the RPF does not have the powers under The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956, to arrest the perpetrators. Its only job is to prima facie hand them over to respective agencies.

Arguing for more powers for RPF in such cases, she said, “As we are the immediate responders, our role is crucial. If the agency which is identifying has the power to arrest and prosecute, then the the system will be more effective and efficient.”

As per The Railway Property (Unlawful Possession) Act, 1966, people can be punished by the RPF for suspected possession of railway properties, whether obtained unlawfully or stolen. “If a law can exist for things and goods, then special laws for people should also be given to RPF,” an official said.

NGOs such as International Justice Mission (IJM) and CHILDLINE India Foundation assist the RPF in identifying and enquiring about children who are possibly trafficked. They also help in training and sensitising of officials, ground staff and the general public.

Patrolling on trains

M. Prathima, associate director, IJM, said that human trafficking was an organised crime with complex links. She said patrolling on trains was as important as patrolling at railway stations and government should look into this issue immediately. “Coordination and cooperation between different government agencies, private organisations, and stakeholders, including the general public is important to effectively combat this issue,” she said.

Mahesh Jakati, program manager at CHILDLINE India Foundation — which has volunteers stationed at the railway stations for Nanhe Farishte — said that if the children were not rescued at the right time, they became vulnerable to all kinds of abuse and are forced to lead a poor life devoid of education, care, or protection, while often ending up on the streets.

Toll-free helpline

The rescued are taken to the helpdesk, given necessary care such as food, rest, medical check-up, along with counselling and are produced before the Child Welfare Committee (CWC), who later restore the victims to their families.

To alert the agencies concerned about the suspicious movement of children on railway station premises, the public can call the toll-free security helpline number 182, or child line 1098, or the police helpline 100.

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Printable version | Apr 17, 2021 1:59:42 AM |

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