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While they are sleeping

india Updated: Feb 22, 2009 21:28 IST

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The Nithari incident in the National Capital Region should have served as a wake-up call on the issue of missing children. But clearly, this has not been the case. Although, the culprits in that horrendous crime confessed to preying on helpless children, our police officials seemed to have learnt very few lessons. This is not to suggest that every missing child is a victim of psychotic killers or others on the prowl. But even as the Delhi Police Commissioner asserted that his force is not sitting on such crimes, there is a disheartening feeling that suggests that our police don’t really see missing children as a serious concern that requires to be investigated in any proper or procedural manner.

The phenomenon of ‘vanishing children’ has many causes that include simply running away from what they may perceive as an unpleasant life — or even an empty one. The unfortunate fact of the matter is that most of the missing children are from poor, socio-economically backward families that have no clout or wherewithal to follow up on the cases. The police have more often than not been cavalier about these cases and have even gone on record suggesting that children going away on their own accord makes the matter not their business. One is talking of minors here. It is the duty of the law and order authorities to at the very least try and trace them rather than to deny, as the Delhi Police have done without any proof, that “there are no organised gangs involved” in these disappearances. The Commissioner seems oddly confident of this ‘fact’. There seems to be a serious apathy on the part of the police in finding children who have gone missing. Senior police officials dismissing these cases as being part and parcel of life among the poor is an insult to the families who have suffered such losses.

It is well-known that when parents of poor children try to file missing report cases, they are not taken seriously. The time that elapses between a missing child being reported and the police staring to search for him or her holds the crucial difference in tracing the child and losing him or her forever. For the sake of our children from poor families without ‘connections’, this is something the police must be made to understand.