In a small apartment at Anil Complex on Tadiwala Road Arjun Moato’s 11-year-old son sits in his lap. His father holds on to him even tighter when Sarvajeet says he has to go inside and collect his belongings and get ready to come home. It took a lot of coaxing from the staff of SATHI a city-based NGO, that assists children in difficult situations to make Arjun let go of his son.
|11-year-old Sarvajeet with his father, mother and sister at the SATHI office, after more than a month away from home
Arjun’s behaviour seemingly strange makes sense when you realise that his son ran away from the family’s home in Akola on January 18, 2012. Sarvajeet’s father beat him up for not going to school and the Class VI boy, who had some problems with his classmates, chose to run away to Pune instead of attending class.
While the family did look for him, they didn’t meet with much luck until they received a call from SATHI asking them to come to Pune to take their son back with them.
“After getting the call, we reached Pune at 12.30 am and spent the night at the railway station. We reached this office when Sarvajeet was asleep and were waiting to meet him,” says the boys mother Kaushalya Devi. His sister Pancham breaks down as she meets him and asks him why he didn’t speak to her and whether or not he missed her.
When we quiz Sarvajeet about the month-and-a-half he spent away from home he says, “I do not know this city properly, but I managed to enter it. Initially, I met a vegetable vendor and asked him for some work. He offered me job for Rs 3,000 a month apart from other expenses. I was walking on the railway station a few days ago, when I met volunteers of this NGO.”
“My son ran away from home leaving our whole family in pain. Now, I have come to realise how important one’s children are. I will try to sort out whatever problems he has including his school or friends.” says Arjun, who thinks he made a big mistake by hurting his son’s feelings.
Seated on a plastic chair with a stained pink wall in the backdrop is Kavita Ovhal. She can’t seem to take her eyes off her son. She looks quite stern, but when she starts to speak, tears roll down her cheek.
Kavita was reunited with her eleven-year-old son Akash, who had run away from their home in Maval after having an argument with his parents. Kavita and her husband Sahebrao Ovhal had been looking for Akash for two days, with no luck. But a call on Tuesday morning from SATHI brought them relief.
“We have had a horrible experience after Akash went missing. We had decided to shift him to another school, but he didn’t want to go,” she said.
Akash says he ran away from home due to parental pressure. “I do not want to study in the school which my parents chose. I told them to get me admitted elsewhere, but they were not ready to do so. They beat me up when I refused to obey them and forced me to attend classes.”
While school was a matter of concern for the two boys, 16-year-old Vicky Vishnu Singh ran away from his home at Raichur in Karnataka, because he wanted a free life. “I do not like to work and do not even want to go to school. I was helpless as my mother asked me to continue work. I argued with her and she beat me up. It was then that I decided to run away,” he says. He landed in Pune on January 28.
The NGO on Thursday reunited six families with their children. Manoj Kumar Swain, SATHI’s programme officer said, “On an average 30 runaway children are rescued in the city every month. Some of them are sent home after their addresses are traced.
Although there are many reasons for children to run away from home, we noticed that most of them take the step after their parents pressurise them, mainly to go to school.
To trace the families information is sought from the child, police, and NGOs. While some lucky kids are reconciled with their parents and go home, others whose families cannot be traced are sent to the Child Welfare Committee in Shivajinagar.
► My son ran away from home leaving our whole family in pain. I have come to realise how important one’s children are. I will try to sort out whatever problems he has
- Arjun Moato, whose son sarvajeet was reunited with him