As if the agony of losing her 12-year-old son, Rahul, was not enough for Lalita Devi, the trauma worsened after she was not even able to register an FIR.
"I don't even remember how many times I had gone to the police station to register my complaint. Finally, 10 months after my son had gone missing, an FIR was registered with the help of an NGO," said Lalita Devi, whose son went missing on September 27, 2012.
The episode casts serious aspersions over the seriousness with which police take action against incidents of missing children, who most often than not, land into the hands of human traffickers.
A public hearing organised on Monday by the NGO, CRY, highlighted how registration of an FIR in such cases was a tedious process.
Several people, whose children had gone missing, participated in the hearing and shared their experiences on how difficult it was to register an FIR.
The hearing was also aimed at highlighting the issue of an increasing number of children who go missing from the city as well as the rising number of those who remain untraced.
With the number of untraced children increasing at an alarming rate (nine every day in 2013 from three in 2010), parents want the police to fast-track action in such cases.
According to child rights experts, there is a need to raise awareness in society. "If a police officer refuses to register an FIR, you can approach the senior officers. If the parents are aware about their rights and are informed about the right procedure to be followed, it will create pressure on the police to fast-track action," said MM Vidhyarthi, member of Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights.
According to experts, outer, southeast and east districts of Delhi are the most vulnerable areas for children for the past many years. Nina Nayak, member, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, said: "As soon as a child goes missing, all the relevant stakeholders should be alerted for fast-tracking of the case. Inputs of family are paramount in the process of tracing the child and it should be done in a professional manner. There should be convergence of action between all child protection authorities in the state."
"There are no deadlines for police department to trace missing children, which shows the apathy and non-serious approach of the police department in handling these cases," said Sona Moitra, regional director (North) CRY.
Parents join hands for sake of their kids
Name: Kaajal, 8
Missing from Aman Vihar since April 2010
New Delhi: On April 21, 2010, Raj Kumar Mehto's (top) eight-year-old daughter, Kaajal, went missing from his north Delhi's Aman Vihar house.
After exhausting all his efforts, he decided to pool in efforts and form a group of parents in his locality whose children were also missing.
They printed posters and pasted them everywhere they went. "We printed posters and pasted them in various cities," said Mehto.
Aman Vihar is among the top 20 police stations, from where most children reportedly have gone missing.
Mother wages lonely battle to find daughter
Name: Aatiq, 10
Missing from Jahangirpuri since April 2008
New Delhi: Sabra Sheikh's son had gone missing in 2012 but he was reunited with the family. Her daughter Aatiq, who went missing in 2008, is not that lucky.
"The police asks for money to register an FIR. I had paid `2,500 to get an advertisement published in the newspaper. Once I got information that my daughter was in Pratapgarh, UP, but the cops asked for money to conduct a raid," alleged Sheikh.
Sheikh's son had fallen into the hands of traffickers, but he managed to flee and was found in Panipat. But she had to return empty-handed from Pratapgarh.
Sold for Rs 2,500, she was rescued from Agra
Shahida Khan (name changed)
Sold to traffickers, rescued from Agra
New Delhi: Shahida's neighbour kidnapped her and sold her to traffickers. For six days, Shahida changed hands between traffickers, who took her to Agra.
"She went missing in 2011 right from near our house. A neighbour used to ask about what are we doing to find her. We got suspicious and questioned her. She confessed to having kidnapped our daughter and selling her for `2,500," said Usman Khan, Shahida's mother.
The neighbour told them that Shahida was in Agra. The family went there and rescued her.