Published: 23rd July 2021
These RPF constables will counsel COVID orphans they find at stations, help them get their lives back on track
An initiative by the South Eastern Railways, female constables will be trained to give rescued kids counselling and develop a mentoring system to ensure they're fine during rehabilitation
Female constables of the Railway Protection Force (RPF) under the South Eastern Railways (SER) will be given training in basic counselling to help COVID orphans who have been pushed into begging and child labour. Prashant Yadav, RPF commandant of the Ranchi Railway Division, who is the nodal officer of this initiative said, “Training of our constables will take its own time, perhaps another three months. We will be taking help from Child Welfare Committee (CWC) counsellors till then.”
However, it is not yet decided as to who will be training the women in counselling. What we know is that RPF will be on the lookout for COVID orphans in and around the railway stations under the SER. There will possibly be a team of 10-12 female constables from each division in the SER — namely Adra, Chakradharpur, Kharagpur and Ranchi — who will be part of the new counselling cell. Yadav said that there will be a thorough investigation done to ensure that the child has lost his/her parents to COVID-19.
According to a recent study published in The Lancet, more than 1.19 lakh children lost at least one parent to COVID-19 just during the first 14 months of the pandemic. The study stated that about 25,500 children lost their mother to COVID-19 while 90,751 lost their father, and 12 lost both their parents.
But that’s not enough, is it?
The counselling apart, the rescued children will be provided shelter through the government's Childline team (1098). "Weekly counselling services will continue even after a child is sent to a shelter home if he/she wants to avail them,” Yadav said. Explaining how they have envisioned it, Yadav added, “One RPF official will be assigned to every rescued child, Ideally, he/she will be visiting the shelter to look after the child’s needs on a weekly basis.” Rescued young girls in a shelter will be assigned female officials. The frequency of visits may differ according to the needs of the child. “Some children may require a lot of attention once at a shelter, while some may be able to handle themselves better,” he also said,
Assigned officials will ensure that the child has all the school supplies, footwear and clothes they need. They will also be making sure that the child’s living conditions are clean and hygienic. Apart from that, the officials will try and ensure that the child is not being bullied at the shelter. An official written report will be created after every visit and this report will be sent to the railway’s zonal office in Kolkata and from there it will be sent to the Railway Board.
Image for the purposes of representation. | Pic: Unsplash
In case the child’s relatives are traceable and are willing to provide him shelter, the Railways will take a call on a case-to-case basis assessing what is best for the child. “In such cases, we will also be in touch with lawyers who can help out with any family dispute,” he said. Moreover, the Railways will look after all their educational and medical needs for which money will be raised through their corporate social responsibility wing. The funds may also be utilised from the Railway Suraksha Kalyan Nidhi, which is a financial assistance scheme meant for the force members and their families in case of unfortunate events such as death.
What about children who are not COVID orphans?
“There will be two kinds of children, one who will be able to tell where his/her parents are and if they are alive. Another won’t be able to reveal any sort of identity,” Yadav said. With a sense of regret, Yadav said the funds are a problem in such programmes and as of now the initiative is limiting itself to COVID orphans. However, he said that every child that is in need will be helped as best as possible.