Tracing missing children has become one of the priorities of the Mumbai police, with as many as 34,227 children reported missing in the past nine years, which includes 17,749 girls.
Officers said the number of girls going missing is alarming.
Between 2005 and 2014, 16,478 boys went missing, of which 14,922 were traced. From the missing girls, 16,163 were found.
In all, 3,142 missing children are yet to be traced — 1,586 are girls.
“In most of cases, we find that the children run away from their homes because of fights or abuse. But what is shocking is the higher number of girls reported missing. It is seen that girls leave their homes to explore city life or end up being lured into a love affair at a young age,” said Dhananjay Kulkarni, Mumbai police spokesperson.
The police said they probe these cases to find out about begging or child labour rackets operating in the city.
“Since most of the missing children or runaway kids are lonely, they are forced into begging or child labour. Though there has been no proof of any organised group operating in the city as of now, we are focusing on that as well,” said Kulkarni.
In most cases, the children who are found are handed over to the family, but the procedure takes time.
However, when the children refuse to go with their parents, the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) holds a hearing to sort out the issue. In some cases, the CWC asks the parents to sign a bond before taking charge of their children, said officials.