The capital has lived up to its fearful reputation of disappearing kids with over 1,500 children – mostly between 6 and 15 – reported missing in the first five months of this year, according to police figures. Only few are expected to return home, going by past trends on tracing missing children.
The latest data follows the disturbing trend of over a dozen children a day going missing in the capital and, despite CCTV cameras and hi-tech aids, Delhi Police are finding it difficult to locate them.
The success rate of Delhi Police is unimpressive, with a majority of the located children being those who return home on their own, according to crime record data.
Traffickers on the Prowl
Deputy Commissioner of Police, Rajan Bhagat, said that the missing children mostly are in the age group of 6 and 15 and belong to economically weaker families of downmarket areas of Delhi.
"As per the data, around 12 to 15 children are reported to be missing every day in Delhi," Bhagat said. He said there was a possibility of the involvement of "some inter-state human trafficking gangs" who usually prowl the slum areas and abduct kids of "deprived and migrants families" for cheap labour. The capital has a bad record on account of missing children.
As per government figures tabled in parliament during the budget session, nearly 27,000 children have gone missing in Delhi in the last five years and only 9,700 could be traced.
63 Percent of Missing Children Remain Untraceable
Across the country, 30 percent of the children remained untraceable, but in Delhi the number is the highest at 63 percent. Bhagat said police have launched a scheme, "Pehchaan: Safeguarding the Childhood", as part of its anti-human trafficking drive.
Under the ‘Pehchaan’ initiative, children belonging to poor families residing in JJ clusters and resettlement colonies are being registered and photographed from time to time with the district police “so that they can be traced if they happen to go missing in future”, Bhagat said.
Bhagat said the "situation is alarming" in the capital and "sometimes it is difficult to trace missing children since poor families do not even have photographs" of their children. Thus, beat constables have been asked to capture photographs of all kids in slum areas, he said.
“Under the ‘Pehchaan’ scheme, we also create awareness with the help of NGO’s from time to time about crime rates with minors and juvenile in the capital. We educate parents on how to take care of their children.”
Cyber Experts Help Police Trace Missing Children
Sometimes police even take the help of cyber-experts to trace those missing children who have access to cellphones and have social networking accounts.
They are mostly aged 12-17 and such children leave their houses of their own volition. But sometimes they do access their social networking accounts and police cyber experts follow their IP addresses.
But the number of such cases is minimal, a cyber expert officer said.
"Bachpan Bachao Andolan" by Kailash Satyarthi
Police also take help of NGO’s as sometimes children who have been abducted and employed as domestic help get in touch with voluntary groups.
These NGOs – like "Bachpan Bachao Andolan" run by Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi – play a crucial role in informing the police about exploitation of children.
Satyarthi’s group on 18 May rescued nine children – aged between 7 and 15 – from an illegal factory in old Delhi’s Daryaganj area, where they were forced into slavery after being trafficked from Bihar.
(This article has been published in an arrangement with IANS.)