Jhanvi, the three-year-old girl who went missing from the India Gate area on September 28, is a very lucky child, to say the least. Thanks to an aggressive search operation and an intensive social media campaign, the police found the child a week after the dreadful incident.
But not all children are as lucky as Jhanvi: According to the National Crime Records Bureau data, a child goes missing every eight minutes in India and 40% are never found.
On Thursday, the Ghaziabad Police claimed that in the last two weeks, they have traced 98 boys and nine girls from 32 districts across four states and 48 of these children have been sent back to their families. To trace the children, the police formed 38 teams of five officers each and fanned out to different districts.
While this effort is commendable and should be replicated across the country, an important question that needs to be answered is: Why are such spectacular drives not conducted as soon as a child goes missing but only when there is public pressure/focus on such incidents?
There are several reasons why children are kidnapped: Human trafficking, prostitution, the porn trade, forced labour, illegal organ transplantation, the adoption racket and illegal medical testing.
Many are forced to beg and some mutilated to improve their income potential. Then there’s kidnapping for ransom. When a child is kidnapped, the ideal first reaction should be to lodge an FIR.
But, unfortunately, in most cases this doesn’t not happen — just an entry is made in the ‘missing persons’ register and a photograph of the child is shared with other police stations.
Also, there’s very little inter-state coordination when it comes to tracing missing children. There are also no uniform laws across states that define ‘kidnapped’ children.
Cases are investigated only when a case of kidnapping is registered. To ensure a better turnaround time for tracing missing children, the ministry of women and child development in 2009-10 created a national mechanism for tracking ‘missing’ and ‘found’ children (http://bit.ly/1C05wCX).
In 2013, the Supreme Court, furious over 170,000 missing children and the government’s apathy towards the issue, had noted: “Nobody seems to care about missing children. This is the irony.” A year and a half later, the government data show over 150,000 more children have gone missing.
It’s high time that this issue was taken up on a war footing. Hopefully it will now get adequate time and attention from the government, especially now that a child rights crusader — Kailash Satyarthi — has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.