India’s children are missing at a much faster rate than ever before with as many as 60,000 young ones below 18 reported missing in 2009 as compared to 44,000 in 2004 — a jump of 35%.
What is more disturbing is that only 40% of them are traced, mostly through individual efforts by parents.
It means that seven children, mostly from extremely poor families, go missing every hour with a count of 165 a day.
About 10% or 6,000 children, who went missing were infants less than a year old.
“The figure would have been higher had bigger states like Rajasthan, Orissa, Gujarat, Punjab and Tamil Nadu provided information under the Right To Information Act,” said Kailash Sathyarathi, chairman of NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan, which filed the RTI applications 10 months ago.
Twenty-four children going missing from Noida’s Nithari area in 2006 stirred the government to announce a Rs 200-crore scheme for a database of all missing children in India.
Only two states — Delhi and Haryana — have uploaded data on all missing children on Zipnet, a centralised database to help track them.
“There is not even 15% interest in implementing this good initiative,” said PM Nair, an Indian Police Service officer, who had worked on child issues with the United Nations and National Human Rights Commission on its study in 2004.
The RTI replies filed by the states show the police investigates just 15 % of complaints it receives because of manpower constrains. Implications were apparent in case of three children from Delhi, who were found in a brothel, a roadside eatery and in a begging gang six months after they were reported missing.
“In most cases investigation does not proceed more than 15-20 days,” Nair said.