Around 20 children go missing in Delhi every day. Around eight of them — or 40% — are never seen again, Delhi Police records show.
According to police statistics, 1,153 children went missing between July 16 and September 15 this year, approximately half of them trapped by traffickers. While 688 children were found, 465 remain untraceable. Many of the victims are infants.
Police said many of the children were rescued from placement agencies, factories and homes, where they had been employed as workers or domestic helps. Some had wandered off on their own.
“Most children who go missing in Delhi end up in traffickers’ hands. Children below eight years are forced into begging. The older ones are pushed into child labour. Organised gangs kidnap minors and transport them to other cities,” said Rakesh Senger, national secretary of Bachpan Bachao Andolan, an organisation helping the police in rescuing such children.
Sube Singh’s nine-year-old son was last seen playing outside his home in south Delhi's Sangam Vihar in August 2011. “The authorities have no clue where he is. I go to the local police almost every second day with hope,” said Singh, a factory worker.
Last month, the parents of another nine-year-old boy got lucky. The police traced their child to a shelter home in Lajpat Nagar after more than two-and-a-half years. The boy had gone missing from near his house in west Delhi’s Nihar Vihar.
Cases of disappearance have shot up by more than 40% this year. In 2010 and 2011, around 14 children went missing every day. Around 11 were traced.
The police have identified 18 hotspots — mostly slums in the city's outskirts — from where most of the cases are reported. In 2011, 191 children went missing from Khajuri Khas (east Delhi) and 115 from Karawal Nagar (outer Delhi).
Around 100 children disappeared from Aman Vihar and Shahbad Dairy (both in outer Delhi) as well as Gokulpuri (east Delhi).
Delhi Police spokesperson Rajan Bhagat said special measures were being taken to curb the problem.
“We have started by identifying the areas where children go missing. We will soon launch an awareness programme to educate parents how to safeguard their children. We take missing persons' complaints very seriously,” said Bhagat.
Rishikant, executive director of Shakti Vahini, an NGO, said strict laws against trafficking could act as a deterrent.
“There should also be regular checks on placement agencies and illegal factories,” he said.