Written by sreedev
30 Dec 2015, the day we were planning to visit Panjim Goa, it's a part of Goa dense with casinos and beer clubs. Day was pleasant and the whole town was gearing up to welcome 2016. We started from Vasco hardly knowing the route to reach our destination. Throttling through the nice tarred road with beach on both the sides spirited with wet green trees, we reached near a bridge which connects highway to Panjim town. We pulled over to ask for a go-ahead. We couldn't find anyone other than this boy who was sauntering through the footpath. A lean, 5 feet tall boy with yellow drowsy eyes, wearing a sooty shirt and a school bag. We stopped and asked him the route to reach Panjim town. He took out a piece of paper from his pocket and checked if the name we asked is matching with the one he have in that piece of paper. Then he vaguely nodded his head and replied us to give a try going straight over that bridge. That made us skeptical about what he is up to. I asked "Where are you from?" .He replied that he is from Hyderabad. Then we continued asking him more questions and he kept answering us elaborately and genuinely.
This boy ran away from his house 2 days back. His father who is a Sub-inspector of Police used to beat him regularly. One day while this boy was returning from his friend's house, his dad came and started beating him on middle of the road which made him decide to leave his house on the same day. He reached Goa and was planning to get in to some job, of course he was out of cash. He was starving since a day and was sleeping on a chair at a park near Panjim. He was surviving in a bottle of Limca since a day and we could figure out his dwindling health. He feared we would hand him over to Police but still he was asking us to take him with us and give him a place to stay. We checked his bag and found some books related to medical entrance and some tuition notes, he was preparing for medical entrance after Plus two. By the time he detailed about the joint family and situations he was going through when he was back there in Hyderabad. After 15-20 minutes of conversation we understood that he is so brilliant and good performer in curriculum. On the way to Goa he contacted his mom once to inform that he is going away from home, we both where wondering thinking about his mother's condition. A day back he met a taxi driver in town. This boy might have discussed the same story with him; that taxi driver gave him a Club owner's number and advised this boy to contact that owner for a job. He was planning to visit the owner on the same day at evening 3 and was on the way to find this club when we met him. The piece of paper he took out of his pocket was the address and number of that club owner. We tried called that owner and he replied to come to club at 3.
We were in dilemma and was feeling uneasy to leave that boy like that. Frankly, I was not that mature enough to handle the situation, but Sandeep was stern and was suggesting me to take this boy to nearby Police station or church. But I felt that plan is not going to work anyways. We realized taking him to Police station will be a bad idea, because his father is a Sub Inspector and it would be like giving back to beast's hand. Sandeep started surfing through his contact list to ask someone for a sensible advice. One of his senior Rahul has worked in many NGO and he is well versed with such situations. Rahul told us to contact child helpline ( 1098). We called child helpline and detailed them everything that happened. The team asked for details like, how we met? How old is this child? What's his condition? etc. Then they told us to wait near the Park at Panjim. Within half an hour, one team with 2 women and a men came walking to us and took him to their office which was nearby. We joined them just to make sure that the boy is in safe hands. Once they reached their office, they started intriguing the boy to understand more about boy which was their regular procedure. After some time this boy started bursting out in to tears and started thanking us for taking him to a safer place like that. The head of the team was an old lady and her name is Susan. She gave us her word that they will take necessary action to ensure the safety of that boy. She thanked us for helping them for pulling this boy out of danger and told that this happens very often, in festive seasons the rate of child abuse goes high in such happening areas. She told us some similar stories happened in near time. That boy came and hugged us while we were about to leave and told us to stay in touch with him, then we thanked the team and walked out.
Living in a country with such a substantial population, there is greater chunk of children who are struggling to get their daily meal done or a roof to sleep in. In this same boscage there are chaparral who takes advantage of these little ones. We should be sensibly aware of these mis happenings around us and should be capable enough to respond. Official figures says, 12 million children works daily in India, but many NGO claims its 60 million. Studies says, around 53.2% children reported having faced one or more forms of sexual abuse. When the numbers are such huge, the possibility of bumping in to one of these victims is really high when we are visiting a place in India. If that happens, be wise with how you act and should make that fortunate for that child. There is a child help line which works all over India - 1098. This is an initiative by Government of India and this team is nowhere related to Police or military wings. There is an efficient team working 24x7 in search of such victims to catch and move them to a safer zone. If we find a child below 16 in a weird situation, anyone can dial to this number. The team will arrive in spot without any compromises in an hour. You don't have to provide your details to them while taking that child, you won't get fastened with any Govt documentations. Never think you are wasting your time doing all these in between your tour or travel, you are gifting a new era of life to a child by doing this. What else you want to be happy to take back home. So be wise when you travel and be prepared to act up on situations like this. As this situation was an eye opener for me.
1098 is the child helpline which works all over India. Anyone who finds a child getting abused or labored can dial to this number. The team will be on the spot within an hour. 1098 will be live 24x7.
This blog was originally published on 'LIFE IMPROVISED'