For the past three years, Kunwar Pal is looking for his missing 12-year-old son. He tries to follow every lead that he gets and travels across the city and nearby towns in the search of his son who went missing in November 2003 from Sangam Vihar in south Delhi.
He regularly visits the police station, where he had registered a missing persons’ complaint and pastes photos of his son at public places in the hope of getting some information. So far, his quest has led him nowhere.
“My wife is dead and my son is all that I have. I sold off my house to raise money for his search. I work for a private company and I leave everything midway as soon as I get any lead,” said Kunwar Pal.
Pal’s son is among 6,000 missing children that are yet to be traced in the past three years. Police statistics show that Delhi has a notorious record on missing children. The average number of children who remained untraced per day has consistently grown from three in 2010 to nine in 2012.
Traffickers at work
Police said a majority of these missing children, who were later rescued, were found working as labourers or domestic helps.
“Most children who go missing in Delhi end up with human traffickers. Children below eight years are forced into begging, while the older ones are pushed into child labour. Organised gangs kidnap minors and send them to other cities,” said Rakesh Senger, national secretary, Bachpan Bachao Andolan.
Senger’s claims find currency in the statistics that show how maximum cases of missing children were reported from areas that are close to Delhi’s boundary with other states. For instance, 40 untraced kids belong to Sangam Vihar, which is close to Faridabad in Haryana, alone.
Half of the rape victims in Delhi are minors (below 18 years of age), say police. Cases of sexual assault on children in the city have been reported from both at home and school.
According to National Crime Records Bureau statistics, crime against minors in Delhi is a staggering 22.3 cases per lakh population of minors as compared to the national average of 5.2 cases. In April, a five-year-old girl was brutally raped in east Delhi’s Gandhi Nagar area by two of her neighbours who left her to die in a basement. In another incident, an eight-year-old girl reported molestation at her upmarket private school in Gurgaon that was going on for two years.
A number of initiatives have been launched by the government and the police for the welfare of the children, including helplines.“Pehchaan: Safeguarding the childhood’ was launched to maintain a database of minors in the city.
Through this initiative, children residing in slum clusters, resettlement colonies are photographed and registered with the district police,” said a senior Delhi Police officer.“We have already registered nearly 80,000 kids from slum areas. One of the major problems we face while tracing kids is that parents don’t have their photographs. The scheme was launched keeping that factor in mind,” the officer said.