Around fifteen years ago, a young woman happened to be at the Charbagh railway station in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, when a young boy of around 10 came up to her. Dressed in tatters, his face streaked with mud, he tried to sell her a bottle of water.
“It was tap water poured into a plastic bottle bearing a mineral water label. A few minutes later, after he had moved away, I saw a policeman brutally thrashing him,” she recalls.
She promised herself that one day she would do something for the numerous children she saw about her who, instead of spending their days studying and enjoying their childhood, are being forced to work in the most inhuman conditions and cope with the repression of the law enforcement authorities.
After completing her Masters in Social Work, Shachi Singh, who is now in her thirties, set up Ehsaas, an organisation that works with children living on the streets or at the railway station, spending their days doing small-time work to make ends meet. In fact, today it’s because of all the good work done by Shachi and her Ehsaas team that the Charbagh railway station has become the first station in the country to be declared child labour free.
In April 2011, she was able to achieve what she had set out to do nearly a decade ago. With the help of her organization, the Government Railway Police (GRP) has also created a child friendly booth for lost children across 72 districts of Uttar Pradesh.
But her work doesn’t end here. She is on the agenda of setting up short stay centres where children either run away or are forced out of their homes. She also plans to establish a vocational centre providing computer training among other skills.