Is my child safe? The question has parents worried across the National Capital Region (NCR) after the abduction of three-year-old Anant, son of Adobe chief executive officer Naresh Gupta, on Monday.
Anant was snatched from outside his Noida Sector 15-A residence while waiting for his school bus, along with his family's domestic help.
Parents and school authorities say they were helpless in such a situation. “What can you do beyond making sure that the child is escorted to the school bus and that the school he goes to employs proper security checks? Most parents send their children to the bus stop with their domestic helps,” says Vasvi Bharat Ram. Her two daughters study in Shri Ram School in Vasant Vihar.
Her concern is shared by other parents who say the situation can be improved only by boosting police surveillance on roads. “The criminals could escape because of the lack of police presence on Noida roads. More police pickets should be set up and Chetaks (PCR vans) should be deployed during the school hours,” says Anoop Khanna, general secretary, District Student Guardians’ Association, Noida.
Schools say they do everything to ensure that students are safe, but ask what can be done if children are abducted from right outside their homes. Lotus Valley, the school Anant attends, has a strong security system.
“Every school bus has an armed guard who has every parent’s cellphone number. In Anant’s case, however, the boy could not board the bus at all,” says Madhu Chandra, principal Lotus Valley School.
She says the school does not allow any child to leave the premises unless the escort produces proper identity proof.
Such kidnapping cases are not limited to the NCR alone. Last September, six-year-old Lakshit Malhotra was abducted from outside his Pitampura school under similar conditions. He was later recovered from Etah in Uttar Pradesh.
Parents also express concerns about the dependability of domestic helps in such situations. “I do not know how much they would be willing to risk if my child was being abducted. Chains are snatched right outside our apartments every day. The armed guards on duty never do anything. There is no policing on roads early in the morning. The government and police cannot be mute spectators,” says Shikha Aggarwal, parent of a three-year-old and a Civil Lines resident.
Aggarwal’s concerns are not misplaced as increasingly working parents leave their children in the care of domestic helps. In one case, one-year-old Arpit Dewan was abducted by his maid on January 31, 2005 from his Sriniwaspuri home. The child was later recovered from Orissa. The Dewans had not got the domestic help’s credentials verified.