Bangalore: A group of good samaritans in Bangalore have made it their mission to provide shelter and education to street children. Not just that, the group called 'Sathi' also tries to reunite the kids with their parents.
They hold meetings and Sathi co-ordinator Sanjeev and his colleagues get ready to go on rounds of Bangalore's city railway station. Their task is to identify unaccompanied children, those who have strayed, intentionally or accidentally. "They could be involved in accidents, be taken by brokers and touts to be sold as labourers at hotels," Sanjeev says.
About eight to ten children land up at the railway station in Bangalore alone every day. That's roughly 3,000 children every year. They're all confused about their immediate future, and left alone, they could end up losing their childhood forever.
Most of these kids are under 12 years of age, confused about the future and irritated with the present, they run away from home for the most trivial reasons such as fights with family and low scores in school. Sathi secretary Pramod Kulkarni says, "It's a rebellious age. Some event, some spark happens. The child gets agitated and moves away. It's a spur of a moment, it happens."
IIM alumni Pramod Kulkarni started Sathi when he came across such kids in need of prompt intervention. Though his organisation has reunited some 9,000 kids over the past four years, he says this probably accounts for just 10 per cent of all runaway children.
"You need to connect as soon as possible with the child, because you can change the child's mind at that time. More the time spent on the platform, it's very difficult to retrieve, the child is into an addiction of the platform life," Pramod says.
At Sathi's temporary shelter, the kids are engaged in non-formal educational activities where they start bonding with other children. But with all this comes memories of parents, siblings, school. In many cases runaway kids who initially lied begin opening up, recalling addresses, phone numbers. Parents are then traced through complaints and the children reunited, because as Sathi believes, the platform child never grows up, he just ages.