In August this year, the case of 10-year-old Nishant Zope of Saket Nagar in Bhopal made headlines across the country.
The boy went missing on his way to school on August 14 and was found in the jungles of Gairatganj in the neighbouring Raisen district, about 40 km from Bhopal, after eight days.
The case remained under constant media glare and police surveillance and the final result was happy. But this is not always the case.
On July 5, a family of labourers returned from Delhi to Sagar railway station. A youth started playing with the toddler girl of the family while the tired mother dozed off on the platform.
When the woman woke up, she found her daughter and the youth missing. The girl is yet to be traced.
Despite several initiatives on the part of the Madhya Pradesh government, especially under the directives of Supreme Court, children continue to go missing in large numbers in the state.
Statistics of last eight years (2007 to 2014) of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of MP police shows that 66,462 children, including 33,925 girls, were reported missing in the state - which translates into about 23 kids going missing every day.
An analysis of the statistics by NGO Vikas Samvad shows that 6,285 children of these children still remain untraced, indicating that for every ten children that go missing, one never returns.
More importantly, of all the untraced children, 4,526 -- 72% -- are girls.
The fact that children from big cities are more vulnerable is shown by fact that 26.5% of the missing children (17,628) were reported from the four cities of Gwalior, Indore, Bhopal and Jabalpur. However, largest numbers of children trafficked are from tribes-dominated districts like Mandla, Dindori, Balaghat, Seoni, Shahdol, Umariya, the report by Vikas Samvad, based on statistics and case studies shows
Sachin Jain, a member of the NGO, told HT that the analysis of the situation suggests that though the government had taken initiatives to set up necessary infrastructure for child protection and recovery, lack of coordination and convergence between various authorities acts as deterrent to solving this problem.
“One of the biggest missing links is also the lack of sociological and criminal impact study about the missing children. Reasons are not looked at in-depth and thus, solutions are not arrived at,” he said.
He added that laggard attitude of police added to the problem. “If a child remains missing for over four months, the case should be investigated as that of trafficking. But this hardly happens.”
Archana Sahay of Bhopal Child Line said that anti-trafficking units (ATU) of the police have been set up in 16 districts and child protection committees of the women and child development department have also been constituted in all districts. “But the basic issue is that of orientation and prioritization, which is lacking,” she said.
Inspector general (coordination) of CID, MP, AK Gupta, said that the police conducts special drives (Operation Muskaan) to recover missing kids.
“The focus is sharper during such drives but at other times, the police have to prioritise their work. We try to do our best in each case,” he said.
Missing children (2007-2014)
Missing girls: 39,225
Missing boys: 27,237
Girls untraced: 4,524
Boys untraced: 1,761
(Source: Criminal Investigation Department, MP Police)