Trinity Mount Ministries

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

India’s Missing Children, By the Numbers:

India Real Time
Sajjad Hussain/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
Street children in Mumbai, Nov.13, 2010.
In India, a child goes missing every eight minutes, according to data from the National Crime Records Bureau.
Almost 40% of those children haven’t been found.
That calculation was based on the Aug. 8 response by Jitendra Singh, minister of state for home affairs, to a question posed in the Rajya Sabha, Parliament’s upper house. He said almost 60,000 children in 2011 were reported missing from a total of 28 states and union territories according to the NCRB. Of these more than 22,000 are yet to be located.
West Bengal had the highest number of missing children with more than 12,000 missing in 2011. Madhya Pradesh was next with 7,797 cases while Delhi had 5,111 cases. These are the cases reported. The following states didn’t report any, which experts say is not credible: Maharashtra, Odisha, Goa, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Punjab.
Some children are abandoned by families who can’t take care of them because of a lack of money. Some run away to escape abuse or unhappy homes. Some are lost, mostly when families travel, according to research by Childline, a 24-hour national helpline for children in distress.
Rakesh Senger, who helps rescue and rehabilitate missing children through the NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan, estimates only 50% of missing children are reported to the NCRB.
One of the main reasons for the high number of missing children is that the law on missing children in India is inadequate, say experts.
There is no legal definition of a missing child, and each state follows its own rules, says Mr. Senger.
Kidnapping is by far the highest reported crime against children. There were a total of 33,098 crimes reported against kids in 2011, up 24% from 2010, according to a reportissued in September by the social statistics division of the Indian government.
In 2011, 15,284 cases of kidnapping were reported; a 43% increase from 2010.  These numbers include kidnapping children for exporting to other countries, abducting kids for ransom or forcing them to beg.
Separately, according to the report, 3,517 incidents of child trafficking were recorded in 2011. This includes buying and selling of girls for prostitution, child marriage and trafficking children for the illegal transplantation of organs.
The report also states that India has the largest number of child laborers under the age of 14 in the world.  Even though Indian law prohibits children below the age of 14 from working, 12.66 million children work as child laborers, according to the data.
Of those, 21% of these children are employed in cigarette and bidi factories, 17% in construction and 15% as domestic workers. Others work as rag pickers, agricultural workers and in industries like fireworks and carpet weaving.
“Nearly 85% of child laborers in India are hard-to-reach, invisible and excluded, as they work largely in the unorganized sector,” the government report states. Also, many missing children are never brought to the notice of the police, especially those in the commercial sex trade, say experts.
Part of the reason India has so many missing children, experts say, is how their cases are treated by law-enforcement authorities.
The police in India, barring a few states, do not register first information reports – the first step to an investigation — for missing children. So no formal case is even filed. They only make an entry into the list of missing persons at the police station where the child is reported missing so in-depth investigations are rare.
In Mumbai, for instance, a photo of the missing child is sent to police stations all over the city and police keep a lookout. But, there is no investigation of a crime unless the person who reports the child missing asks the police to file a case of kidnapping.
In Delhi, the law is slightly more robust: After 24 hours, if a child is not found, a case of kidnapping has to be filed by the police. This change came after a series of murders in Noida, a Delhi suburb, including those of eight children.
The police in some regions have also begun a database for missing children,
But experts say it isn’t enough.
There is a “lack of inter-state cooperation” and a need for an “integrated country-wide database” for missing children, says Mr. Senger.
If a child is reported lost in one state but has been trafficked to another state, there is no mechanism to ensure that the child will be searched for countrywide, he explains.
Follow India Real Time on Twitter @indiarealtime.
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