Rekha Mishra, a 32-year-old sub-inspector with the Railway Police Force (RPF), has gone above and beyond the call of duty in her constant work towards helping runaway kids.
Runaway children from around the country arrive at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in Mumbai, either fleeing abuse or seeking glamour. Many even come to meet friends that they have made over social media or are victims of kidnapping.
Out of 1,150 children rescued by the railway police last year on the Central Railways’ Mumbai division, Mishra came to the aid of 434 children.
Last year, Mishra saw three girls in school uniforms de-boarding Chennai Express and spoke to them. When she realized that the girls could not understand her language, Tamil-speaking personnel were brought in. All three girls were around 13-14 years old and initially said they had escaped kidnappers and boarded the train by accident.Later, they confided in Mishra that they wanted to act in films. Mishra spent that night with the girls at the police station to give reassurance that the young girls so desperately needed. They have since been united with their families.
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This is just one of the examples of the stellar work that this officer is performing, day-in and day-out. Many such children would have slipped through the cracks in the city to unknown, dark corners if not for Mishra. Hailing from Allahabad, she comes from an army family; her father is a retired army veteran and two of her three brothers are soldiers. She says that she has always been taught to respect elders and look out for kids in her family.
It is a thankless job, further complicated by logistical issues.
Children are not criminals and can neither be locked up, nor left alone at the station. More often than not, they are victims and need to be handled with utmost care.
Mishra is known for her careful handling of these young souls and for ensuring that no harm comes to any of them, even after they have left her care. As abuse at home is a major reason for children running away, not many disclose details of their families. The number of children who have been reunited with their families is abysmally low – only 28 of the 434 – but not due to the lack of trying.
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Also, some children are too young and unfamiliar with the world to even be able to tell where they are from or give any usable information about their families. That being said, now these children do not slip to anonymity through the cracks – but are taken care of. Those who cannot be sent back home, are then handed over to the Child Welfare Committee for further action.
In just the first three months of 2017, Mishra and her colleagues have rescued 162 children. This sub-inspector who clocks in anywhere from 12 to 14 hours each day, says that she is only doing what is right – doing work that helps her sleep peacefully at night.
By Arushi Pareek