The reasons for which children go missing in Mumbai are vastly different from anywhere else in the country, police officials and activists say.
While poverty and the search for employment at an early age drives children in rural areas to big cities, in Mumbai’s case, the phenomenon is more closely tied with social issues and parentage, experts said.
RTI activist Chetan Kothari said marital discord between the parents is often linked to a child’s disappearance. “In cases where couples get divorced within a few years of marriage, a custody battle for the child often leads to kidnapping. In cases where the divorce takes place at a later stage, children, unable to take the pressure, run away from home,” he said.
A senior officer from the Missing Persons Bureau (MIB), said, “On many occasions, we have come across cases where children leave home when they fail to cope with parental pressure over academics. In slums however, children are often forced to leave home as parents fail to feed them. This apart, drug abuse at an early age and psychological disorder also leads to disappearances,” the officer added.
Kothari also claimed that of late, overly-indulgent parents could also sometimes be blamed for the phenomenon. “As children grow, their expectations keep increasing and they become too stubborn to hear the word ‘no’ and flee when reprimanded,” he added.
IPS officer turned lawyer YP Singh however said children in Mumbai, or in any urban area, flee from home as income opportunities are readily available in cities. “They know they can easily arrange for food,” he said.