Dream to make it big in Bollywood, craze to meet their favourite film stars, scolding by parents or a wish to see the 'maximum city' are some of the reasons that prompted over 700 children to run away from their homes and come to Mumbai last year.
As per the figures provided by the Railway Protection Force (RPF), 706 children, mostly from other states, were rescued from various railway platforms of Mumbai and its suburbs in 2017.
"Altogether 528 children (360 boys and 168 girls) were rescued from western suburbs, while 178 children (115 boys, 63 girls) were found in the central suburbs. Most of these children were in the age groups of 13-18 years and hailed from the states like Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat," an official said.
Among all the stations in Mumbai and suburban areas, the Mumbai Central railway station accounted for maximum number of rescued children (129).
"Mumbai Central (BCT) station is home to about 21-22 long distance trains from states like Rajasthan, Gujarat, New Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. Last year, we rescued 129 kids from here and most of them hailed from these states," Anup Kumar Shukla, Senior Divisional Security Commissioner, Western Railway, RPF, told PTI.
Another RPF official said, "Attracted by the glamorous life-style of the maximum city, these youngsters come here for auditions to become an actor or singer. Some of them even come here just to meet their favourite film stars or become cricket players."
In one of the cases, the RPF found a 15-year-old boy, who was from Bikaner (Rajasthan) roaming at Mumbai Central. The boy later told the officers that he had ran away from his home to become an artiste in Bollywood.
"Then, there was an 11-year-old boy from Surat, who had lost his parents and was staying with his uncle. He had come to Mumbai to meet his favourite Bollywood superstar Salman Khan. The star-struck kid had the address of the mega star written on his palm," the official said.
A 12-year-old boy, resident of Mathura in UP, had left home with his cricket kit. After he was rescued, he told the officials that he had run away from home to pursue his dream of playing cricket in Mumbai.
According to the RPF, some children run away from home just for Mumbai darshan, while there are few others, who leave their homes after being scolded or beaten by their parents.
"A 16-year-old girl had come all the way from Kashmir, to pay a visit to Haji Ali Dargah. In another case, a 13-year-old child ran away from his home in Gorakhpur (Uttar Pradesh) as his step-mother had beaten and scolded him," the official added.
There was a teenage boy, who left home as he had failed in Class X, the official said.
Representative of a NGO that works in co-ordination with the RPF in rescue of these children, said, "After a child is found at the railway station, he or she is made to feel comfortable at our kiosk at various stations."
"Then, a medical test is conducted and procedures like making entries with and filling up documents are followed at station manager's office. The child is then produced before the Child Welfare Committee for their restoration within 24 hours," he said.
"If the parents of these children are traced, the kids are handed over to them, while others are sent to the Children's Home in Dongri and Mankhurd (both in Mumbai) for rehabilitation," he added.
As per the RPF data, out of 706 children rescued last year, 425 were re-united with the parents after following due procedure and 265 children, whose parents could not be traced, were sent to the Childen Home. Besides 16 children were handed over GRP (Government Railway Police) station concerned for further investigation.
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