"We were not able to sleep ever since our son went missing. I was fasting for the well-being of my son on Chhath and it was by God's grace that I got him back yesterday," said Sukanti Devi who met her child after 19 days after he was kidnapped from a park in South East Delhi. She further told Millennium Post that on October 8 her child went missing and life without him was like hell. She continuously looked at the main door in a hope that her son will return but in vain. "He went to play outside and never returned home," said the mother. At the end, it was proper groundwork and investigation done by the police which reunited the child with her mother.
The following story has the pain of missing children, tracing them and the joy of reuniting them with their family. Like Sukanti, many mothers have experienced the pain when her child went missing. For the Delhi Police personnel, who are involved in the tracking of missing children and reuniting them, it seems to be a task with few clues. Sharing the experience, one of the police personnel from Crime Branch of Delhi Police stated that some children were traced with the help of only one clue like the name of ponds or their village name. "Sometimes a child would to tell the name of the neighboring village after which we used to trace all the neighboring villages in search of the family," said the police personnel.
In January this year, Anti Human Trafficking Unit (AHTU) unit of Crime Branch found three children who had taken the train in search of food from Gurugram. When the children boarded the train, it halted at a station but soon after it started to move and the children reached Delhi. When some policemen saw the minors they asked them about their whereabouts, but the children could only say that they live in Gurgaon. The police team took them out in their vehicle in search of their home. "The children could not give us a clear picture of where they lived in Gurgaon, so we searched almost every place and asked them to recall whether they live here. After a ride of almost four to five hours they were able to recognise their house," said a police official.
In one such case of tracing a two and half-year-old child, the police force from Amar Colony police station searched almost 20 villages in Uttar Pradesh and inquiring over 100 people for 19 days bore fruit as they reunited the kid with his parents on Chhath Puja. Deputy Commissioner of Police (south-east) Romil Baaniya, claimed that a team was sent to Gorakhpur where they checked around 25 to 26 villages in search of the kidnapped child and also inquired more than 100 people in order to get a clue. Police sources claimed that they were also taking care of the fact that the accused did not come to know about the search, so more than 40 people including panchayat members were taken into confidence and were told to keep an eye.
Why children go missing
Recently, Anti Human Trafficking Unit reunited 15 children with their families. According to police, all the children belonged to families from the lower strata of our society. These children in the age group between ten to sixteen years, revealed that they are all school dropouts and in order to earn quick money they had escaped from their homes. These children were looking for some sort of livelihood when the rescue team arrived at New Delhi Railway Station. The team which included Inspector Joginder Singh and head-constable Naveen Pandey, in rescuing the children was under the supervision of Surender Gulia (ACP/AHTU).
According to Komal Ganotra, from NGO CRY, the reasons in most of the cases of children going missing are lack of adequate care and supervision, especially in an urban setting. The upward trend of urbanisation continues, with the ever-increasing population in slums. "Unlike a rural setup, communities in urban slums are not homogeneous units and constitute most of the migrant population.
Families where both parents are working, likely in informal sectors, often struggle to make ends meet. This leaves the possibility of affording daycare for children who are left by themselves at home, rather bleak. Some parents can't comprehend all possible risks when they leave their children unsupervised, even those who do, are constrained with an inevitable compulsion to leave them home while they go to work. As for the parents and communities, it also is imperative for governments to understand and identify these risks, and adopt preventive measures such as making crèches universally available, so children are less vulnerable."
NEXUS OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING
According to NGO Shaktivahini, human trafficking plays an important role for a child going missing. Traffickers lure girls on the pretext of love, marriage, and job and they traffick them to other states. NGO workers who are involved in rescuing girls stated that the traffickers chose the rural parts of an area which is very poor and they lure victims on the pretext of job or good life in the Capital. After getting trafficked, it is only trauma that the girl faces.
Rishikant from Shaktivahini stated that DNA Profiling offers one of the most reliable forensic evidence which can be very helpful in solving such cases of missing children. "If the police take the DNA of the parents of missing children and store it, it will be easy for them to reunite children by matching their DNA with the parents, once the child is rescued," said Rishikant.
Swayamsiddha which means self-empowerment is an initiative by the West Bengal Police in South 24 Parganas which has proved to be vital. According to a senior police official from South 24 Parganas under the initiative, they empower minor girls who are vulnerable to trafficking. They met villagers and educated them about human trafficking and the modus operandi used by the traffickers. "It has helped us a lot, now girls are helping police to curb the menace of human trafficking. They give us vital information about similar incidents happening in their locality," said Chandrashekhar Bardan, West Bengal Police.
National Commission for Protection of Child Rights' (NCPCR) effort:
The child rights body has been seriously looking at the matter of missing children. According to Yashwant Jain, the commission receives several complaints of missing children and the grievances are taken seriously by them. "We have also found that some children do now want to go home and the reasons include misbehavior of a step-parent, poverty, and hunger," said Jain. Sometimes children flee from their homes to big cities because they want to study but due to the poor condition of the family, they do not get opportunities in their hometown. In a bid to reunite the missing children, NCPCR has written to the concerned department of all states and union territories to check their children homes and find out how many children of different states have been residing there. Soon the commission also plans to hold a meeting with concerned stakeholders in this regard.
Delhi Police Data:
Police sources told Millennium Post that more than 5100 children were traced in the year 2016 whereas more than 3100 children were traced in 2017 (till September). In two years more than 700 children below eight-years-old were traced, whereas more than 900 children in the age group of 8 to 12 years were traced and more than 6400 children between 12-18 years of age were traced by Delhi Police. Sources further claimed that in the year 2017 around 147 children between 0-8 years of age remained untraced; around 150 children between of 8-12 years remained untraced and 1532 children between 12-18 years remained missing. In the year 2017, more than 400 cases of abduction were reported whereas more than 4000 cases of kidnapping were reported. In both reported crimes more than 2400 cases were solved by the police.
LIFE AFTER MISSING:
Back in the year 2016, when Kiran S was the Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) of Gautam Budh Nagar more than 300 children were rescued under "Operation Smile 2" and were reunited with their families. According to children, they had lost all hope of seeing their family again. During the operation, a girl was traced in Mathura and was reunited with her family. One of the missing children was found working at a tea stall where he used to get only a burger to eat for the whole day. Police sources claimed that when a child lands in the Capital, for some time he can get food from the money which he had, but soon the money runs out and he has to take up jobs like rag picking or child labour to feed himself. Asha who lives in Prem Nagar area has been searching her two daughters who went missing in April 2017. "Its tough to live without my daughters but I will not back down. Every day I am living with the hope that they will return," said Asha.