By Prarthana Mitra
The achievements of a 32-year-old sub-inspector have become an elaborate feature in Maharashtrian school textbooks— for leading the railway department’s newest campaign to rescue runaway, lost or trafficked children.
Rekha Mishra who enjoys a unique distinction to her name— is a sub-inspector in the Railway Protection Force (RPF). Mishra hails from Allahabad and is posted at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) and has rescued over 900 children from Mumbai’s busiest station over the last two years.
The government and social media are abuzz with praise for Mishra’s focused, courageous and sensitive approach that reunited over a thousand children with their families. The Railway ministry salutes her unwavering determination and noble spirit, that has been instrumental in combatting the rampant problem of child trafficking in India.
Here’s what happened
Out of the 1,150 children rescued by the railway police in 2016 on the Central Railways’ Mumbai division, Mishra was responsible for the safe return of 434 children to their families, a feat that has found a place in SSC textbooks in Maharashtra. Last year, she delivered another 500 children to safety with her continued efforts at the line.
Her team has previously rescued a group of children abducted from Madhya Pradesh and some children who were kidnapped from Chennai.
Students will soon study about the 2017 Naari Shakti Puraskar awardee, who has successfully rescued so many children and restored their childhoods back to them. Mishra, who joined the division three years ago, told the Hindustan Times, “While I have the same duties as any other RPF officer, I look out for children on the railway station who have no one accompanying them.”
— Piyush Goyal (@PiyushGoyal) January 30, 2018
After being rescued, the children are brought to the notice of children welfare committee (CWC) after undergoing medical tests. RPF also seeks the help of various non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the CWC in reuniting children with their parents.
Why you should care
According to a senior RPF officer who did not wish to be identified, Mishra goes to great lengths to ensure that no harm ever comes to the children she is in charge of. “It’s actually a thankless job, if you look at it. These are not criminals you are dealing with; they are, more often than not, victims and you cant just leave them at the station and go home in the evening. You’ve got to be there for them. She does that,” the source told Mumbai Mirror.
Mishra reportedly starts her day early and reaches CST around 8 am and doesn’t leave before 8 pm, covering both morning and evening peak hours at the city’s busiest railway station. A well-liked figure among her superiors and colleagues, she urges all public servants to treat their duties, not as burdens, but as a privilege.
According to Mishra, thousands of children escape from home or are kidnapped on an annual basis, and end up at stations terminals and platforms, where they are more vulnerable and prone to exploitation.
The CST station, being the last stop of local and long-distance trains, experiences the largest traffic of runaway children. “Most of the children leave their homes after being scolded by their parents or an elder. In some cases, children come to Mumbai in the hopes of meeting a movie star. But when they reach CST, they are unable to find their way,” said Mishra. A lot of them are sexually abused, some find themselves exploited by begging and pickpocketing rackets. At trying times like these, Mishra says, it’s the praise and happiness of the parents that keep her going.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.