They’re lost, rarely found
There are two victims in this horrific tale. One is two-year-old baby Falak, who is fighting for survival at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences. The other is the 14-year-old girl who assaulted Falak for five days before bringing her to the hospital.india Updated: Jan 31, 2012 22:47 IST
There are two victims in this horrific tale. One is two-year-old baby Falak, who is fighting for survival at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences. The other is the 14-year-old girl who assaulted Falak for five days before bringing her to the hospital. While Falak seems to be a victim of child trafficking, the older girl is a victim of an exploitative relationship, which was preceded by abandonment by her own family. The feelings of frustration and abandonment were exacerbated when she was left alone with Fal-ak by her 22-year-old boyfriend. Unable to cope, she battered the baby. Both are paying a heavy price because the government — and society at large — puts very little premium on the lives of children, especially girl children. And both cases have brought to the forefront the neglected issues of child safety and security in India.
Despite having multiple authorities and a ministry looking after the welfare of children, a country of India’s size still doesn’t have a single country-wide system to register, track and monitor the cases of children who go missing. Naturally, there is no conclusive database of the cases. According to 2007 study by the Institute of Social Sciences, a staggering 45,000 children go missing every year. Of these, 11,000 are never found. Yet another report puts the figure at almost 10 lakh per annum. According to the National Crime Records Bureau’s 2010 report, 10,670 cases of kidnapping and abduction of children were reported during the year, as compared to 8,945 in 2009 — a ‘significant’ increase of 19.3%. But let’s take this figure with a pinch of salt because the registration of cases of missing children is never very easy, as the Nithari case in Noida, Uttar Pradesh, showed a couple of years ago. In most cases, the police club the cases to maintain a constant crime graph. Since the chances of getting back a child who has been missing for more than 10 days decrease dramatically, any delay can prove fatal. Needless to say, the most vulnerable to being trafficked, running away or getting lost, are children living in poor communities, slums, unauthorised and resettlement colonies.
While the sensitisation of the police and beefing up the infrastructure are important first steps, what we need urgently is a tracking system, as without statistics there will be no accountability and no pressure to perform. There has to be better cooperation among different executive bodies of the district administrations such as the labour department and the police, along with increased sensitisation of government officials in dealing with cases related to children. Moreover, there has to be more government-run shelters for children because often the police are hampered since they can’t keep a child in prison. It’s a shame that a country that talks so much about the advantage of having a young population cares so little about the next generation.