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This RPF officer has rescued 434 runaway children

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Since 2014, she has rescued 434 kids

In June 2016, Rekha Mishra, a sub-inspector with the Railway Protection Force, was on duty in Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. She and her team spotted three scared young girls in school uniforms getting down from the Chennai Express on Platform 15. When she went up to the girls to ask them if they were in trouble, they only stared at her. That’s when she realised they couldn’t understand her. Putting two and two together, the team called a Tamil-speaking person to help. It turned out that the girls had been kidnapped outside their school in Chennai; they had been tricked into approaching a van, the forced into it. At a traffic signal, one of the girls bit her captor, and in the resulting confusion, they managed to escape. In panic, they boarded a train at a nearby station, not knowing it was a long-distance express. “We then called up their parents, and the local police station, Ms. Mishra says. “The girls were my responsibility, I felt, so slept along with them at the police station.”

Ms. Mishra, who is 32 and joined the RPF in 2014, is known a hard-working officer with a track record of helping children at the CST station. She has rescued 434 children, 45 of them girls. Most of them were kids who had run away from home, often because of being beaten by parents. There are also frequent cases of children who, obsessed with a film star or attracted by rumours of glamour in Mumbai, had run away to see it for themselves. There are some where they came to meet Facebook friends, and there have been victims of kidnapping too.

“As per my records,” Ms. Mishra says, “Most of them are from U.P. and Bihar.” Almost all the children found are from 13 to 16 years old. Sometimes, though, the children are too young and unfamiliar with the world outside their homes, so it is difficult to even get their addresses and names of their family members from them. There was one case of a boy who couldn’t speak or hear, and the RPF had to call in experts in sign language to understand him. Sadly, out of the 434 rescued children she has handled, the RPF was only able to trace the parents of 28; the rest had to be handed over to the Child Welfare Committee for further action.

Ms. Mishra works in a team with ASI Shivram Singh and other staff. They are trained to follow proper procedure, with a lengthy process — designed to protect the best interests of the child — to be followed every time a child is rescued. Santoshi Dhekle, team member of Community Committed Development Trust, says, “After medical tests, and following procedures like making entries with and filling up documents at station manager’s office, we take the child for further investigation. We try to find out their parents so we can send the kids home. Or we have to send them to the remand home in Mankhurd or Dongri.”

In 2017, as of the end of March, Ms. Mishra and her colleagues had already rescued 162 children. They expect the number of such cases to rise in June. Ms. Mishra says that this is because children have school holidays, and therefore more team to roam around, and sometimes they take advantage of the freedom, or are tempted by the stories they have heard of Mumbai, so they get into trains without knowing anything about the city or knowing anyone there.

Ms. Mishra’s work has impressed senior officers. Ajay Yadav, the senior inspector in charge of CST, says, “She is a very hard-working and dedicated staff member, ther staff should also learn a lesson from her hard work.”

Sachin Bhalode, Senior Divisional Security Commissioner, CR, RPF, said, “This is different type of work, and one has to be very dedicated and needs a special skill which, Ms. Mishra has. This is a very responsible job, handling sensitive cases. She has done a commendable job and we are in a process of recommending her for rewards.”

“I feel very blessed and happy that God helps in doing such work,” Ms. Mishra says. “I always pray to God that gives me strength to help others, especially senior citizens, children, and poor people. I work for around 12–14 hours a day, and make sure that I don’t regret anything when I go to bed.”

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2020 5:07:33 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/the-rpf-officer-who-traces-runaways/article18032236.ece

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