Railway Children India - Ensuring safe childhoods for children at risk of taking to the streets

Across the world, millions of children are forced to survive alone on the streets. In India, every five minutes a child arrives alone at a railway station. A recent news report says that over 17,000 children were rescued by the Railway Protection Force (RPF), many of whom were in the clutches of traffickers. 

Children leave or are forced to leave home for various reasons, including violence, abuse, poverty or neglect. Many dreams of a brighter future in cities, while others intend to return to their families with money for food, but end up lost in the chaotic world on the streets.

A newborn child rescued by Railway Children India (RCI) 

One such heart-wrenching story is of a 15-day-old baby girl who was found abandoned at the  Delhi Sarai Rohilla Railway Station. Once found, the team member of Railway Children India (RCI) was immediately contacted by the Delhi Sarai Rohilla’s Government Rail Police (GRP) requesting support from the female staff of the Child Assistance Booth (CAB).

RCI team members found the baby lying on the table at the Police Station, for her safety. Lukewarm milk was fed to the baby immediately, and further investigation into how the child reached the platform began. The CAB staff started inquiring with several railway staff who were working on the platform at the time. Despite a lot of effort, the CAB and GRP were unable to trace any clue as to how the baby girl arrived at the railway station.

On further probing, speaking with platform vendors, and checking surveillance footage, it was concluded that the baby was abandoned by her mother. The video footage showed her holding a baby when she entered the station, and not holding a baby as she exited the station. This confirmed that the baby had been abandoned by the lady.

When the family was tracked down, the father was unaware that his wife had left their child at the station. The mother burst into tears apologizing for her mistake. 

RCI team members counseled her on the consequences of abandoning her own child. She was also made aware of the legal implications of abandoning her child. During the counseling session, she shared about being constantly taunted about not having any boys, about her husband feeling the same way, and feeling ashamed of herself.

The counseling session went deeper and addressed the topic of gender and it is out of her control. The mother said, “I was in a dilemma that maybe I have some kind of problem due to being unable to give birth to a boy, but after getting information today, I realize I have no such deficiency.” 

After knowing all the facts, the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) also talked with the mother over the phone and counseled her. In the rehabilitation process, the CWC stated that if the mother and father are ready to take full responsibility for the baby child then, in that case, she must be handed over to her parents. 

However, the CWC is looking into this matter very seriously, to ensure the well-being of the child at home.

Rescue and rehabilitation of vulnerable children 

Vulnerable children, unless rescued, get tangled in a cycle of violence, exploitation, trafficking, and abuse on the streets. They make money any way they can scavenge for scraps of food, and sleep huddled together in groups for safety. Their lives are typified by violence and are often cut short.

Railway Children India, a child rights organization was established in 2013 as a non-profit organization under Section 8 of The Companies Act, 2013. They collaborate with governments, policymakers, civil society organizations, and key child protection stakeholders to create a world where no child ever has to live on the streets.

Interact with families around railway stations to create a safety net for children within the community.


RCI works with a mission to create and enable sustainable changes in the lives of children living on the streets. Over the last 5 years, they have worked at 10 railway stations across 7 states in India. RCI races to reach children at risk as soon as possible because early intervention can keep children safe and prevent them from slipping into street life. 

To transform stations into child-friendly spaces, a team of outreach workers (ORW) work round the clock across transport hubs. They reach out to every child arriving alone or passing by railway stations and bus terminals. 

A key spokesperson at Railway Children India says, “Our 24-hour outreach teams, together with Government Railway Police and the Railway Protection Force, work around the clock to identify children who are alone and at risk at railway stations. We work with existing child protection mechanisms to find the best possible short-term and long-term solution for them, whether that means being reunited with family or access to a child care institute.” 

Further, they have established a 24-hour Child Help Desk at each station location offering children at risk somewhere to go for food, water, first aid, and counseling. 

Changing childhoods, one child at a time

RCI works with shelter homes to provide short-term care for children with nowhere safe to stay. Here children access educational services, recreational, nutritional, health, hygiene, and counseling support.

If education is not an option, children are encouraged into vocational training courses and non-formal education so they can secure an income for themselves in the future.

Whenever it is safe the children are reunited with their families in consultation with the Child Welfare Committee. If this is not possible they are offered a place for long-term care. During the first year, regular follow-up visits are conducted to monitor the child’s progress. 

To date, 22,934 children have been protected from danger. While 22,138 were returned to their families, 171 were referred to long-term care. Further, they have sensitized over 2,50,000 railway passengers about child protection. 

Railway Children India was nominated a resource agency for the Indian Railways, to develop Standard operating Procedures (SoPs) with the aim to build child-friendly stations across India while building the capacity of railway officials and staff through the Railway Protection Force Training Academy and Railway Protection Force Zonal Training centers.

RCI is committed to reaching children before they take to a life on the streets. 


Roshini Muthukumar

Roshini Muthukumar, a native of Chennai, started her career as a content writer but made a switch to journalism to pursue her passion. She has experience writing about human interest stories, innovative technology, entrepreneurs, research blogs, and more. Previously, Roshini has done internships with The Hindu, Metroplus and worked as a correspondent with The Better India.