NEW DELHI: Documenting the lives of children working on railway stations between Delhi and Bhopal, a study covering 682 working children (605 boys and 77 girls) has revealed that as many as 23 per cent were living in poor physical conditions. The children revealed that lack of shelter, improper medical facilities, physical and sexual abuse and lack of parental support were among the many problems they had to endure day-to-day.
Worse, the children were also not aware about the rights or the juvenile laws that could protect them. On an average a child had to plough through 8-12 working hours. This increased workload affected their development, severely in case of the girl child. The study also found that there was a limited source of recreation, mostly gambling or drug intake, and there was no exposure to moral values and various life skills like behaviour, manners and communication.
The study, covering Nizammudin, Faridabad, Mathura, Agra, Gwalior, Jhansi, Beena and Bhopal stations, also threw up some facts on the physical, social and emotional well-being of the children and on the impact of four major rights (survival, protection, development and participation) of the children.
The research tools used for the study were participatory observation, mapping of station, case studies of children living/working on platform, meetings with railway authorities, RPF/GRPF Commandants, and with NGOs.
"The study found that the male-female ratio of children working and living on railway platform was 8:1 and 71.3 per cent of the total children were less than 14 years and 40 per cent of the total population was in the age group of 11-14 years. Children here are involved in a variety of work including vending, begging, rag picking, bottle picking, acrobat, cleaning, shoe shining, and selling refilled water bottle," explained Sanjay Gupta, director of Chetna, a non-government organisation working in this area.
India has the largest number of working and street children in the world and these children suffer from destitution, neglect, abuse and exploitation particularly because of their social, economic, physical or mental condition. Also there is no proper system at railway stations to receive these children and guide them at the entry points.
"Stakeholders including police, vendors, porters, and station authorities have expressed their interest in joining hands with committed NGOs for the betterment and welfare of the children. India is a signatory to the United Nation Convention on Rights of Children (UNCRC) and it is a mandate for the Indian Government to consciously work on protection of these for internationally recognised rights of the children," added Mr. Gupta.