JESUIT-AIDED STREET CHILDREN SPREAD ´CLEAN NEWS´ AT MUMBAI RAIL STATION

India
1997-05-02 00:00:00

Street children from a Jesuit-run program in this western Indian city help promote public health at the country´s busiest rail station by making sure people know about a new health regulation.

The Mumbai (formerly Bombay) city administration on March 3 made spitting and littering inside the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus a punishable offense.

Children associated with Sneha Sadan (SS, house of love), a Jesuit-run street children´s program, now earn money by advertising the new regulation in the terminal that handles 3 million passengers daily.

The children spend two hours a day, three days a week, asking the public to keep the station clean, said Karene Britto, a social worker with Sneha Sadan.

Sporting uniforms and carrying placards, the SS boys and girls are each paid 20 rupees (57 U.S. cents) for a day´s work, according to Manjeri Sinha, an official of the railway-sponsored project.

Railway public relations officer Jagdish Prasad said more than 20 people were fined 100 rupees (some US$3) each for violating the regulation during the first month of an enforcement campaign that began on March 25.

City Sheriff Usha Kiran opened the campaign at the British-built station, formerly known as Victoria Terminus, with SS children also participating.

Fareed Ali, 13, who ran away from home in Jabalpur, central India, several years ago, said cleanliness "is a necessity, because if a person with TB (tuberculosis) spits in public, the disease spreads to others."

Ali is one of the campaigners, and one of the children who use the facilities of a "drop-in-center" that SS maintains in the rail station as a first contact point for runaway children.

Some 30 children use the facility to take baths, eat free lunches and rest, SS director Jesuit Father Placido Fonseca told UCA News. He estimated that Mumbai has some 100,000 street children.

SS entrants belong to various religions and they "keep a little away from us at first, having lived in an atmosphere of distrust and shattered hopes. But gradually, they come close," the priest said.

The Jesuits run 15 SS houses here, 11 for boys and four for girls. Each looks after up to 22 children and is managed by a husband-and-wife "house-parents" team. There are also SS houses in other places.

END

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