THREE YEARS ago, these three little sisters lost their only surviving parent. Two of them found their way to different orphanages in Hyderabad, the youngest wandered the streets.
It would have taken nothing short of a miracle — or a movie script — for them to be reunited ever again. But on Sunday, the sisters were back together.
“It was a twist of fate that did it,” said Hyderabad District Welfare Officer Akeshwar Rao, who played a key role in this incredible tale.
“At our state orphanages, officials and counsellors encourage children’s participation by conducting several events. One of them was a science fair held early this year. Some photos of the fair were circulated among the orphanages and two girls, aged 12 and 14, told their caretakers that a girl in some of them resembled their lost sister,” Rao said.
“These girls were living with their father but when he died three years ago, they were moved to the orphanage. They had been telling officials that they had a younger sister, too, who was living with their grandmother. They also described her features, which matched those of the girl in the photos,’’ he said.
“We later found that the youngest sister had been rescued up from the streets by our own officers two years ago, and was put up in a different orphanage. We believe that she started wandering the streets after her grandmother died,” he said.
“When we brought the youngest sibling to the two elder sisters, she did not recognise them. But they were confident she was their lost sister. We decided to conduct a DNA test on all three of them, which matched,’’ Rao said.
According to the child welfare officer, the two elder sisters were also separated for a brief while initially after their father died but were able to communicate with officials and were quickly reunited.
“When we found the youngest one, she was 4-5 years old. We admitted her to a child care institution in Ameenpur. In April 2020, she was shifted to a government-run social welfare institution in Ameerpet. But all this while, the girl never mentioned having sisters or a family to the caretakers,’’ Rao said.
For Telangana Police, which was part of the search that tracked down the girl, the story marks another milestone in Operation Muskaan. Launched in January 2015, the operation has so far led to the rescue of over 22,000 children from the streets, some of whom were from as far as Nepal and West Bengal.
Telangana DGP M Mahender Reddy said the police have special teams, including women constables, especially to rescue children from the streets. “We identify children from railway and bus stations, outside religious places, and footpaths. Most of the children are reunited with their families as we manage to trace them, too. The rest are admitted to rescue homes or welfare homes,’’ Reddy said.
In Hyderabad, for instance, police conducted two drives under this initiative, rescuing 388 children from the streets or from child labour in January and 194 in July. Following the first operation, 289 children were handed over to their parents, and 83 boys and 16 girls housed in child care institutions. And from the July drive, 144 children were reunited while 48 boys and two girls were admitted to government orphanages.
Last year, Telangana Police rescued 1,293 children from the streets or workplaces, and 743 were reunited with their families. And in 2019, they rescued 4,097 children, including 1,192 from other states.
Back in the orphanage, meanwhile, welfare officer Rao said the girls are “enjoying the happy reunion”. “The three sisters are back under one roof now,” he said.