Bal padyatra highlights plight of street children in city

Bal padyatra highlights plight of street children in city
NGO and 100 street children walk for support against drugs and AIDS
Swapnil Rawal

Mumbai, November 12: Society Undertaking Poor People’s Onus for Rehabilitation (Support), an NGO, organised a bal padyatra from its rehab centre in Vakola to Bal Bhavan in Marine Drive on Sunday. About 100 street children participated in the march along with Support’s volunteers. Support works in the field of drug abuse and HIV/AIDS prevention among street children.

“Children are the future of any nation, they have to be nurtured. We have to redirect their energy towards positivity. If street children are neglected, they will become criminals tomorrow,” said Dilip Lakhi, one of the key contributors and strength of Support.

“We organised this padyatra to celebrate Children’s Day and to highlight the plight of street children,” said Sujata Ganega, Executive Director of Support.

The main objective of the NGO is to de-addict, educate and if possible repatriate the street children. The volunteers at Support look out for the children who are drug users, smokers, tobacco chewers at railway stations, streets etc. They educate them about the ill effects of drugs and cigarettes and take them into the Day Care Centre to de-addict them. The staff also encourages the children to change their lifestyle by providing them with rehab programmes.

“After detoxification, the temptation to run away and start using drugs is very strong,” said Ganega.

Rajesh Shinde (15) has been living with Support’s rehab centre for six years. “Initially, after detoxification, I was tempted to run and use drugs but I was told about the ills of addiction and I stayed back,” recalls Shinde.

All children after detoxification are sent to municipal schools for primary education. Vocational training is also provided to the boys and girls. Asraf Ali who hails from Ajmer Sharif and is staying at Support’s centre, said, “My stepmother gave me Rs 100 and asked me to leave the house. I left Ajmer and came to Mumbai and got into the habit of smoking, but now I am happy and have lots of friends.”

Some of the children at the centre don’t even know their names. “They gave themselves the name they please when they were begging on streets and using drugs,” said Ganega.

Support has also appealed to the government to support the street children.

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