Raksha C (16) and Anil Kumar (14)--names changed to protect their identities as both of them are minors--from Mysuru were madly in love. While Raksha was pursuing her studies, Anil, her neighbour, was working as a daily wage earner. However, that did not deter the youngsters to elope and come to Bengaluru to pursue "a happy married life".
Their adventurous escape from their homes after getting married in Tirupati came to an end when the minors were found by the members of Railway Childline at the Bangalore City Railway Station in the city recently.
Railway Childline is a joint initiative of ministries of women and child development and railways, to provide care and protection to missing, lost and trafficked children. The initiative is currently operating in 20 railway stations across the country, including Bangalore City Railway Station. It is run by Childline India Foundation (CIF) in collaboration with local NGOs. In Bengaluru, Railway Childline, started in July 31, 2015, is looked after by the Bosco Yuvodaya, a city-based NGO providing shelter to children in need.
Members of Bosco Yuvodaya told OneIndia that there was a spurt in the numbers of children eloping from their homes to get married. In June and July, 11 and 14 minor couples respectively, from various parts of Karnataka came to the city and were rescued by the members of the NGO from the railway station.
"We have 12 staff members and several volunteers, who consistently monitor the passengers on the railway station. Whenever we find children under suspicious situations, we talk to them and try to help them. In the last two months, we came across 25 minor couples, who had left their native places from across Karnataka and came to Bengaluru to get married. Initially, most of these children lie to us. However, once we bring them to our shelter home in Gandhinagar and give them proper counselling they tell us the truth," said Father John MA, director of Railway Childline.
"Most of these children are clueless and once they realise their mistakes they generally want to go back home. After we give them counselling, members of Child Welfare Committee (CWC) take over their cases. In most of the cases, these children are reunited with their families," he added.
As per the provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2000, state governments are required to establish a CWC or two in ever district. Each CWC should consist of a chairperson and four members. The chairperson should be a person well-versed in child welfare issues and at least one member of the board should be a woman.
The CWC has the same powers as a metropolitan magistrate or a judicial magistrate of the first class. A child can be brought before the committee (or a member of the committee if necessary) by a police officer, any public servant, Childline personnel, any social worker or citizen, or by the child himself/herself.
Father John says these children are hugely influenced by Bollywood films and social media platforms to take such drastic steps. "These minors are too young to understand what is right or what is wrong. These children should not be punished. They need counselling, care and love from parents, teachers and their peers," he added.