The Railways must set up a separate wing within it's personnel department to deal with children found in the national transporter's premises, according to a newly published study.
The 'Rights of Children in Contact with Railways' study, by All India Working Group released on Saturday, has said the Railway Police or Protection Force cannot effectively discharge the duty of child care and protection.
"Institution for care and protection within the Railways cannot be the Railway Police or Protection Force, which have been set up for entirely criminal and custodial protocols, even though there are instances, such as in Bengal where the RPF is said to have played a positive role.
"A separate institution within the personnel department of the Indian Railways should be set up with specialised expertise in the care and protection of children," it said.
The report was prepared by a collective of 40 organisations who participated in collecting data from 127 stations, and 2,148 child respondents.
It also said the current standard operating procedure (SOP) of the Railways has to be revisited as it violates the judgement of the High Court of Delhi, and the principles of the Juvenile Justice Act 2015, the National Policy for Children, and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child so as to mitigate the continuing harassment of the children at the stations.
"The children who come in contact with the Railways do so because the Railways offer a viable opportunity for the objectives of the children and hence the Railways is duty-bound to provide care and protection, and not rescue-and-restore, as is made out in the present SOP. The principle of Corporate Social Responsibility must be invoked in this regard," it said.
According to official figures, 11,178 children were rescued in 2017 while 8,963 children have been sent home by the force with the help of child welfare committees and NGOs in 2018 (till August).
In 2014, 5,294 children were rescued, the following year, the RPF rescued 7,044 children while in 2016, it sent home 8,593 children.
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