The man who reunited over 600 with families

The man who reunited over 600 with families
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Highlights

That one incident spurred Chandra on and he developed a resource directory of homes in Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru and Trivandrum. Managers of homes in these cities inform me when they come across children and the aged from the Telugu states and the 3,000 volunteers play a crucial role in tracing kids.

It was 15 years ago when on a field trip to Mulkala Cheruvu in Chittoor, M S Chandra, 55, an engineer-turned-social activist and founder of Centre for Action Research and People's Development (CARPED), met a woman who would cry every day thinking of her son Srikanth who had gone missing. The boy left home after being slapped by a girl student on behest of the headmaster.

Chandra says, "It was a turning point in my life. I could not see the woman cry and decided to try finding the boy. I contacted all the homes for orphans in South India and finally traced the boy in Saathi Home in Bengaluru. The joy of the reunion is something I cannot forget."

That one incident spurred Chandra on and he developed a resource directory of homes in Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru and Trivandrum. Managers of homes in these cities inform me when they come across children and the aged from the Telugu states and the 3,000 volunteers play a crucial role in tracing kids.

First 5 minutes crucial

If a child gets support and intervention in the first few minutes, it becomes easy to trace them, says Chandra. He shares: "It was eight years ago. I received a call from a volunteer in Mumbai who said he was seated in front of a girl in a local train who looked drowsy and suspicious.

We called up the Dadar Police Station and the girl who was from Kashibugga in Warangal was taken to a home in Dadar area. Her boyfriend fled from the scene. The staff at the government home took care of the girl and we brought her back. There are many girls who are wooed and pushed into the flesh trade."

According to a 2002 survey, every four minutes a child is missing in India and about 4 lakh children and adults go missing in the Telugu states every year. Only 30 % are reunited with families.

Recollecting another rescue, one which is close to his heart, Chandra says, "a girl from Guntur left home leaving a letter that she was going away. A neighbour who knew us called us up and we informed the local volunteer to check at bus stops and railway stations. Luckily, we found her at the railway station and after counseling she was reunited with her family."

In most cases, children leave homes due to petty quarrels and minor incidents. It could be a few harsh words by parents, teachers or even friends. Sometimes parents go overboard and at other times children leave home on an impulse.

How a Hyderabadi nun rescued 22 children

Sister Aruna who is based in Hyderabad was working on a project as part of a Masters in Social Work (MSW) at a home in Mumbai. On the request of Chandra, she collected details of children from the Telugu speaking states and out of the 28 children, 22 could be reunited with their respective families.

Many a time, children are stranded just due to language barrier. Ramu, a boy who was at the home for three years was unable to inform his details. Chandra said, "We spoke to the boy in Telugu and within a week we were able to reunite the kid." Timely intervention and translators could go a long way in tracing missing children, avers Chandra.

Children from Old City mostly found in Gulbarga

Most of the missing children from the Old City of Hyderabad are found in Gulbarga. Chandra says, "It has been our experience and when we receive information about missing children from the Old City and Southern part of the city, we contact our volunteers in Gulbarga."

He adds, "One reason could be that the children would have visited the place on a family trip to a dargah or to visit relatives." It may be noted that there are close ties between Gulbarga and Hyderabad as it was a part of the erstwhile Hyderabad State.

Need for families to share info

A great number of missing children could be traced only if family members share information says Chandra. In some cases, the girl elopes and the family is reluctant to inform the police fearing rebuke from neighbours. The police on its part too hesitate to register a FIR. Hundreds of children could be traced if all the stakeholders work in tandem says Chandra.

It takes anywhere between Rs 2,500 and Rs 5,000 to bring back a missing child, says Chandra. When asked how he manages, he says, "There are individual donors and many parents whose children we united, who are ever willing.

There are many instances when we spend our own money as parents from the hinterland barely have money to even come to Hyderabad." He adds, "There is never shortage of money for a good cause and everything falls in place. The intent is important," he says as he signs off.

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