Of course we have all seen those children- in railway stations, bus stands, on the streets- with matted hair, tattered clothes, and eyes devoid of any flicker of hope. We know they are lost, far from their homes. Trying to help them would mean infinite amounts of time, energy, and trouble. The kind souls might hand them a coin or packet of food; most of us would spare a pitiful look as we go about our day.
Not Rekha Mishra. This Railway Protection Force (RPF) sub-inspector in Mumbai has rescued 434 lost children in the last one year. Among them are children who are lost, those who ran away from their homes, were kidnapped and so on.
Rekha’s singular contribution was noticed when a stock-taking of the number of children saved by the RPF was being done. The total number stands at 1150, which makes the monumental effort of Rekha all the more praise-worthy.
The officer, who hails from Ahmedabad, says she has always been taught to look out for children and the elderly. Posted at the Chhatrapati Sivaji Terminus (CST) railway station, the officer is known for her disciplined ways and dedicated service. She reports to duty early in the mornings and gladly covers a 12- hour shift on most days.
According to Rekha, so many lost children turn up at the CST station where she is posted for a good reason. “Those who are lost, or those who don’t know their way around, or are troubled, they all get down at the last stop,” she says. It is her posting at CST that gave her the opportunity to rescue such a large number of kids, she says.
Her daily routine on any work day includes scanning the station for children “who are vulnerable, and looking for people to assist them.” She also follows up on leads from other RPF teams stationed across the country. She underscores the need for officers to be sensitive and kind so that children trust them. They are not criminals, but victims who need to be protected, she says, adding that her most important task is to make them feel safe.
Rekha is known in the RPF circle as an athlete who participates in state level events. She has been part of operations that busted railway ticketing scams. Her superiors say that she deserves recognition for her achievement and her name will be recommended for awards.