In the megapolis of Mumbai, with its teeming population of 18 million, many children disappear. And as many parents have found – it’s excruciatingly tough to find them.
Frustrated by the Mumbai police inaction and their failure to locate missing kids, Justice Ranjana Desai of the Bombay High Court, on May 5, said: “We have worked with the Mumbai police earlier. If it wants, it can round up people in one day.”
On an average 2,000 kids are reported missing every year, but only half of them are found, reveal statistics. ‘Missing’ includes those who have been kidnapped, lost or run away.
In 2006, of the 1,569 kids who went missing, 582 were traced. In 2007, 4,000 children went missing in Mumbai, only 831 were traced – 3,169 kids have still not been located.
The figures for 2008 are more heartening. Of the 2,837 cases of children who went missing, 398 are still pending. This year, 38 children have been reported missing till March.
The police say the number of missing or kidnapped children who have been traced has been rising in the last five years, but it’s at snail’s pace.
Joint Commissioner of Police (law and order) K.L. Prasad argues that issues concerning children and women are given top priority. “The police take such issues seriously and all police stations are instructed to deal with them urgently,” he said.
Santosh Shinde, a member of the state’s Child Welfare Committee (CWC), doesn’t agree. “When parents approach the police, they are often sent back and asked to get various documents. Most of the time parents from poor backgrounds cannot produce the documents and their complaints are not even registered,” said Shinde. “Hundreds of cases don’t even get reported because of the police’s attitude.”
To make matters worse, the police ask parents to wait for 48 hours before recording the missing complaint. That’s enough time for a child to have reached another town or state. Or fallen into trouble. “Most of the time the reason for children to run away from home is minor, like they get scared of being beaten or a teacher scolding them,” said Shinde.
“There is little co-ordination between the police at inter-state level and that delays tracing a child,” added