Gopal, 17/18 years old, was found by Ramlal at the railway station 7 months ago. He could barely see out of one eye and was hearing impaired. It transpired Gopal had lost his father and was at the mercy of his paternal uncle who regularly beat him, severely injuring his ear and his vision. Gopal escaped by boarding a train and disappeared from the vicinity of his ‘home’.
Gopal seemed content & composed from the outside, but there was so much sadness inside him. With nobody to control him, he was the master of his own decisions and proved to be extremely stubborn. A victim of abuse, he only did whatever he wanted. His underlying restlessness was palpable as he could never persistently study, or work or learn a vocation.
Children who reach railway stations in big cities are on an average exploited or abused within an hour. There are no safe shelters available. Vulnerable,they suffer harassment and violence and a sense of hopelessness when faced with brutality for crimes they have never committed, for bribes they pay from their hard earned money……Their refuge – whitener solution, alcohol, smack…. Over a million children work as child prostitutes in major cities.
Child labour actually perpetuates poverty as children work for minimal wages for the rest of their lives. We need safe night shelters where quality schooling and skills training can be imparted during the day, so that the children are not trapped with little or no choices of livelihood. We should strive to give the children the four primary rights structured by the United Nations General assembly in 1989 – Survival, Development, Protection and Participation.