Mentioned above are few of the questions raised in a new book titled 'Rescuing Railway Children: Reuniting families from India's railway platforms'.
"The phenomenon of 'runaway children', as it is loosely called, is global. But neither there is consolidated data available for the children who end up living on railway platforms, nor there are any government bodies in place to ensure the rehabilitation of these children," says the author Malcolm Halper, a social consultant who is researching the plight of 'railway children' of India.
The last official estimate on the numbers of street children across India was 11,000,000. It is estimated that across 50 main railway stations, at least 70,000-120,000 children arrive onto platforms every year. In comparison, it is estimated that about 84,000 children do this every year in UK, the book says.
In 2006, UNICEF estimated that there are 11,000,000 such children in India. But the official document 'India : Third and Fourth Combined Periodic Report on the Convention on the Rights of the Child' released in October 2011 by the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development, refrains from stating a number and acknowledges the lack of reliable data.
"Why do runaway children use the railways to escape as well as to survive? What are our Child Welfare Committees (CWC) doing? Why haven't these children caught the attention of our National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR)," says the co-author of the book, Lalitha Iyer who is chairperson of Sathi, an NGO which works for rehabilitation of 'railway children'.
There is an urgent need to workout scalable models which demonstrate how railway station can become safe for children. Drop-in shelter for platform children, a Special Juvenile Police Unit of the Railway Police Force, frequent patrolling by the CWCs at railway stations, among others are few measures which can be adopted in this regard, adds Iyer.
The book published by Sage publications, has anecdotes pertaining to lives of few children who ended up being on railway platforms. The book also deals with platform outreach and focuses on shelter close to stations. The reuniting process is examined from a practical as well as child rights perspective.