The statistics are sombre, heart-breaking. Two out of three missing children in India remain untraced in a period of three years, the wait for them an excruciating see-saw between agony and hope for those who love them. On the occasion of International Missing Children's Day on 25 May, Child Rights And You (CRY) compiled these sobering statistics in a report that also noted that the number of untraced children has witnessed a sharp increase in the country.
The data, available with the Ministry of Home Affairs, shows that the number of untraced children in the country has increased by 84% between 2013 and 2015. The total number of untraced children in 2015 was 62,988 as against 34,244 in the year 2013.
"In India, according to estimates, 180 children go missing on an average every day. While the number of children who go missing remains alarming, the number of untraced children keep piling year on year," noted a press release on the CRY report.
The number of untraced children in the country has increased by 84% between 2013 and 2015.
According to CRY, Maharashtra and Delhi have the maximum number of untraced children. According to a recent RTI reply from the Delhi Police, 22 children go missing in Delhi every day.
As of 2015, 9414 children have not been found in Maharashtra and 9001 remain untraced in the national capital. The reality is similarly bleak in Madhya Pradesh and Haryana, which have witnessed around 60% growth in the number of untraced children in the last three years.
Activists say that it is about time we take these numbers seriously.
Komal Ganotra, director Policy and Advocacy for CRY says, "While we know missing children are often led to be a part of organized crimes, illegal child labour and trafficking, there needs to be a differential structure of investigation to track these children. The major reason why children are trafficked from West Bengal, for instance is very different from, say the national capital. A robust investigation mechanism with inter-state and inter-departmental coordination remains imperative. A comprehensive database of children is yet to see the light of the day."
According to a recent RTI reply from the Delhi Police, 22 children go missing in Delhi every day.
Ganotra adds, "Prevention of these crimes needs as much of an investment as the investigation thereafter. Community-based child protection systems have to be in place to ensure prevention of such crimes. Village Protection committees and panchayats can keep a track of all children that leave villages for better prospects. At the urban level, the state should ensure sufficient daycare services for children with both parents working need to be established."
Puja Marwaha, the chief executive officer of CRY, says that the governments should ensure the fundamental rights of underprivileged children in India are protected and honoured. "It is necessary that all duty-bearers for children promise... a childhood which is not [include] begging on streets, working in agricultural fields and construction sites but learning in a well-equipped classroom."