Delhi police records suggested that around five children were reported missing everyday in the national capital in the last five years.
Out of the 8,470 missing children, including 4,620 boys and 2,665 girls, around 1,800 are yet to be traced, the records revealed. The ones among yet to be traced, include around 600 girls.
“Not all children end up at shelter homes. The presence of several human trafficking rackets in the city raises concern. While the males are usually sold of at eateries, farms and residences to be engaged as extra hands, the girls are many a times pushed into prostitution,” said a senior police official.
Almost half the number of children (upto 12 years age) who have gone missing in the past five years are aged below eight years, and around 830 of them -- including 350 girls -- are yet to be tracked, police records say. It is more difficult to track the eight-year-olds, who are extremely vulnerable, said the senior official.
The issue of missing children once again came to the forefront in September 2014, after a three-year-old girl, who went for a picnic near India Gate with her parents, went missing.
The incident, which went viral on social media, led to such a massive outrage that the alleged abductors abandoned the girl within a week.
The girl was found on a busy road in west Delhi, with her hair shaved off (suspectedly to avoid being spotted), and handed over to the parents. However, the police could not identify the abductors till date.
After that incident, police pulled up its socks and more than 1,200 missing children have been rescued since then.
The rescued children include around 650 aged between eight and 12 years, and the others below eight. Also close to one-third of the 1,200 missing ones were girls, according to police records.
Delhi Police have launched several initiatives -- with operations like ‘Pehchaan’, ‘Sneh’ and ‘Milap’ -- to deal with the issue.
Anti-Human Trafficking Units have been formed in each district and in the Crime Branch and police have formulated Standard Operating Procedure in case of missing children which mandates prompt registration of FIR.
Under Operation Milap -- which was launched by Delhi Police’s Crime Branch in December 2014 -- the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit checks various children homes in Delhi and scrutinises the records of such children whose details are either incomplete or sketchy. More than 200 children have so far been reunited with their families under this initiative.
“Officials thereafter closely engage with such children to derive information about their native place, etc. as would enable their families to be traced,” said Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime), Ravindra Yadav.