The world observes, a day against childlabour once a year.. But we still see many kids live on the platform, in the bus terminus, at way side eating places, shop verandahs, parks, pavements and footpaths, and steal, beg or scavenge from refuse bins enough to eat and stay alive. They move on - by trains, buses and lorries. Most of them are 'rolling stones'.As per the Government report, the street children in Hyderabad City are more than 30,000. Majority of these street children are below 16 years age, and mostly are migrants from rural or semi-rural areas from all over Andhra Pradesh. These kids are drawn to the city because they dream that they will make good here. But, most come because they are not able to cope with the stark reality of deprivation of food and love in their large, poor and rural families.
Children of drunken fathers, deserted mothers, beaten, tormented and driven out of their homes for petty stealing, quarrels, come looking for a way out - for a break from hurt, pain and hunger. They come by trains, buses, lorries, trucks and trailers, hitch hiking and even walking.
"We have about 10 rescue teams that go around the city to trace out the child beggars or street children. For past two months we have been rescuing around 70 kids everyday. Basically we send them to the social welfare hostels where they are provided with education , food and shelter. We see kids begging with their parents' encouragement. In such cases we taken a written promisory note from parents and release the child. ", says a very senior government official.
The first few days for the child on the street, out of the village, are days of bewilderment coupled with fear and hunger. Their meager belongings are soon stolen or pawned. Sometimes they are picked up by police and sent to remand homes. They are molested, beaten and sexually abused and with a total break down of coping abilities, still they remain on, only because they have no home to go to!
Needless to say, the vast majority of the innocent children who are on the street are doomed. They are in a system totally hostile to them, with no supports, no motivators, and with no skills other than their animal instinct to survive.
"We seek to be that hand which will draw the these kids out of the dark side of life and support them in their arduous journey of realising their true potential. We are already working on it by tracing child labourers, street kids and sending them to homes by convincing them. Surprisingly, we become uncles for them. They just come hug us when we visit the homes", says B Ajay, a senior official in the labour department.
However, they relish the freedom and independence, and will not easily choose an institution in exchange for the street. When it comes to a child on the street, it cannot be too soon, for his name is "Today".