India: Missing Children: An Epidemic
In India, a child goes missing every eight minutes, according to data from the National Crime Records Bureau. Almost 40 percent of those children haven’t been found.” Wall Street Journal India Realtime.
Children in India are going missing, one child every eight minutes across India! It has become a long wait for parents still waiting to see their children who have now become country’s statistics on missing children. On One hand lays the plight of the parents who are waiting for the call that may never come and on the other the unresponsive government who lay static on these figures.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), almost 60,000 children were reported missing in 2011. Of these, 22,000 are yet to be located. However, according to a report by Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA), nearly 11 children go missing every hour, and at least, 4 of them are never found. According to BBA, the number of missing children could be as high as 90,000 per year. West Bengal topped the charts of missing children with 12,000 children missing in 2011. Madhya Pradesh followed with 7,797 cases, while Delhi had 5,111 cases. These are merely reported cases that discount those children who might run away due to various factors, ranging from abuse to dysfunctional homes, and exam stress, or some who might get lost while families travel. Majority of the missing children are just taken away. The statistics are scary – in 2011, 15,284 cases of kidnapping were reported. This was up 43 percent from the previous year.
According to a report in the Guardian, Children are kidnapped for numerous reasons including human trafficking, illegal organ transplantation, prostitution, child porn racketing, child labour in factories and unpaid domestic help. Many children are forced to beg; some are mutilated to evoke sympathy for more earning potential, and a small percentage for ransom. Kidnappings for ransom are on the rise, and in some cases even after paying up, the parents never see their children again.
The Slipshod Approach
The multiple reason contributing to the adversities of such cases is very often, First Information Reports ( FIR) are not registered; just an entry is made into a list of missing persons at the police station, and a photograph of missing child sent across city police stations. Cases are only investigated if the person reporting the missing child files a case of kidnapping.
A Hope: Tracking the Children
Delhi scores better in this regard – if a child is not found within 24 hours, a case of kidnapping is to be filed mandatorily. An initiative called Pehchaan (recognition) in Delhi has policemen taking pictures of children in slums for record, and copies are provided to their families. The Crime Branch has launched an exclusive portal (www.trackthemissingchild.gov.in) to track down missing children across the country. All states have to compulsorily put this facility into place.
A PIL filed by Bachpan Bachao Andolan, states that over 1.7 lakh children have gone missing in the country between January 2008 and 2010. In response to this PIL, Supreme Court has instructed the chief secretaries of all states and union territories to ask police stations to register an FIR, and start an investigation. Supreme Court also directed that all police stations should have a special juvenile police officer.