Monday, November 7, 2016

Lost Childhood -What Happened When 6 Year Olds Appu and Bhagat Went Missing, And Were Then found!

by Shalet Jimmy
Published in ( Rise for India )

We talk about child rights often. But, have we ever made an attempt to delve into the psyche of abandoned children – The answer is an emphatic ‘NO’.

It was a Monday morning.  A train had just arrived at the Majestic railway station, Bangalore from Mysore.

Six year old Appu and his nine year old brother got down from the train. Anxiety was written all over their face. They arrived unaccompanied and do not know where to go. Luckily, before the brokers who were lurking in the nook and cranny of railway station could lure them to child labour, the Railway CHILDLINE staff of BOSCO identified them.

Then, they were taken to the BOSCO’s child care centre. It seemed finally, they could relax. But after a few minutes, Appu burst out crying when the counselors in the child care centre started inquiring about their parents and whereabouts. The elder brother seemed very cautious while answering their questions. It was evident that they did not want to go back.

The counselors gathered that they were living with their mother, uncle and his family. Their father had left them. As it became a strenuous task for them to earn their daily bread, the uncle decided to admit them in a hostel. It was from there, they fled.

But this story may or may not be true. We get only 30 percent of truth from them, says Mary Triza, counselor, BOSCO. “It’s not their fault. The life has given them many scars. Though we talk about a lot of child rights violations, nobody has bothered to delve into the psyche of children who endures a lot in such a tender age,” she says.

Every day, BOSCO rescues an average of 20 runaway/unaccompanied children who arrive at the railway stations, bus stands and other city areas. But the number of children reaching the streets are many more. And the organization has got just 24 hours to identify the parents of children so that they could send them back. If their whereabouts could not be identified, they would be presented before the child welfare committee (CWC) to take further decision especially to decide about the shelter home where the child could be admitted for rehabilitation.

Whether they are send back or admitted in any homes, their disturbed psyche is completely ignored.

Some children open up fast and some don’t, explain Mary Triza. “We can handle those children who ran away from their home owing to reasons such as poverty, peer influence, migration of parents due to work etc. But it is not that easy with children who have backgrounds such as death/suicide of any of the parent, separated parents etc. They will not open up readily. For such children, the healing has to come from inside. But how many of them get such a chance?” She asks.

Om, a 14 year old boy arrived at the child centre just a day ago. He is from Belgaum. Tears welled up in his eyes when asked why he chose to leave his house. He says “I used to work from 9 am till 9 pm for a daily wage of Rs 300. But my parents are forcing to work for additional money.” The boy burst out crying when he said “There were times when I was not given anything to eat.”  Om had to load and unload goods from a truck. But was it the whole truth, maybe not. For he also said, his parents used to pressurize him to study.

Six year old Bhagat arrived at the BMTC bus stand, unaccompanied. He was wearing his school uniform and kept on insisting that he came to meet his elder brother and that he took permission both from his parents and teachers. He could have been easily believed if he were not in his uniform. The counselors later learnt that he is a single child living with his mother.

Explaining further, Mary Triza says “How much love and care, I shower upon them; I am not their real mother. Take the case of Appu and his brother. They are too little to be taken away from their mother and to put in a hostel. It has definitely left a scar in their mind.” She also recollects a 12 year old boy who was brought to the child centre. “He had lost both his parents and was living with his maternal grandmother uncle and aunt. He did not want to go back for he knew his aunt would create problems for his grandmother if goes back. The little one is hurt to the core and the trauma remains.”

Language is yet another major hurdle, says M D Shake Shafi, another counselor. “We speak around six languages. But it becomes difficult when children from Orissa, Bengal, Jharkhand etc arrives. We don’t know the language,” he says. Besides, we have a very little time to understand the children and their problems as they have to send them back to their parents in 24 hours, he adds.

originally published in

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