In four months of Operation Muskaan, Maharashtra police have been able to rescue 15,310 missing, abducted as well as runaway children and reunite them with their families. The special initiative to trace these children was started in July last year and has been carried out four times since then.
Brijesh Singh, director general, information and publicity (DGIPR), said, “Such an operation is very vital considering the overworked police force, who are not able to take out time to search for missing persons. Our aim is to find children, who have run away from home, those who are abducted or those who have gone missing and reunite them with their families.”
Operation Muskaan took off under the orders of Union home ministry following a writ petition filed by Kailash Satyarthi’s organization ‘Bachpan Bachao Andolan’ at the Supreme Court that raised the question of children’s safety and their rights.
Under the special operation, the Maharashtra police have joined hands with the Railway Protection Force (RPF) to trace missing children. During their first campaign in July 2015, 4,296 children were found. The 46 units under Operation Muskaan again got on the streets in January, April and June this year where a total of 11,014 children were found.
The units under the special initiative work along with the Anti-human Trafficking Unit. Officials said several children are forced into child labour too and the teams work to find such children.
Apart from looking for children who are reported missing, the units also concentrate on finding children who are begging on the streets, working at shops or collecting scraps and many such menial jobs. After finding the child, the officials then try to trace their families and reunite them with their parents.
“We look at railway stations, bus stops, religious places, hotels, dhabas and workshops to find children. These children are then photographed to collect their data and then investigation to locate their families begins,” said an officer working with the unit.