If you see a child crying on the road …

A few days back, the Principal of a leading girls’ school in our city sent the following letter to all parents:

Kindly note the following message from the Police Department.

This message is for girls/women who go alone to school, college or office. You may notice a child crying on the road and the child may request you to be taken to some address. Such a child shall be taken to the nearest police station and never to the address shown by the child.

This is a new technique adopted by criminal gangs who indulge in flesh trade, kidnapping and rapes. Do share this information with others. This may save someone from becoming victim of such gangs.

I was impressed by this message because:
1. In addition to telling the public what they should not do, the message suggests how such situations should be handled.
2. The Police Department has circulated this message through schools, not by the usual method of newspaper advertisements or press releases or posters. Obviously, almost all parents will read a communication from their child’s school principal and most will take it seriously.

I do hope people take the entire message seriously. I’m quite sure that most girls/women who have read this message would not take the child to the address given by him/her. However, given the number of highly publicized cases of policemen having misbehaved with women, how many girls/women would feel safe going alone to a police station? So, what will happen if any “girls/women who go alone to school, college or office notice a child crying on the road”? Do they just ignore the child?

The answer was provided by an incident that took place in the same area about 2 weeks back. A young woman saw a small boy, around 4 years old, crying just outside the bus terminus. The boy was too agitated to reply when the woman asked him his name, address, etc.. The woman was not a resident of that area, but had come there to attend an interview in an office there. She did not want to be late for her interview, but she did not want to leave the young boy stranded there. She took the boy to a newspaper/magazine shop nearby and explained the situation to the owner and requested him to handle the situation. Realizing that the shop owner may not believe a total stranger, she showed him her college Identity Card and the interview call letter. When the shop owner assured her that he would take care of the child, she proceeded for her interview. In about 10 minutes, the shop owner managed to calm down the boy sufficiently to be able to get some replies from him. The boy only knew his first name and the area where he lived, which was about 6 kilometers away. He could not provide his home address, parents’ names or telephone numbers, school name, etc.. The shop owner then decided to take the boy to the local police station. Coincidentally, the local police station had just received information about a missing boy from the same area mentioned by this boy. The boy was reunited with his parents an hour later.

If any girl/woman notices a child crying on the road and is reluctant to go alone to the police station or to even approach a policeman alone, she could/should take the help of local persons who appear trustworthy. It is always better to approach a shopkeeper, as the young woman did, instead of any random person on the road.

Another possibility, suggested by Simple Girl in her comment on my post Brave in thought and word, but not in deed? is to keep all the police emergency numbers stored in one’s mobile phone so that something like this can be reported to the police immediately.

The police and other government departments are all expected to help citizens. But citizens also have to do their bit.