The total number of untraced children in the country has increased by 84% from 2013 to 2015

New Delhi, May 24, 2016 :

In her cramped one room house in the Pratap Vihar area of Outer Delhi, a mother holding a worn picture of her daughter Janvi, incessantly keeps saying the colour of her daughter’s clothing. “Pink frock with red flowers”, she repeats to everyone who visits her home. This was what her 8 year old daughter was wearing, the last time she saw her. This was 6 years ago. Little Janvi had gone to play with her friends nearby, but never returned. Janvi became another missing person report but for Amravati she was her only daughter. For 6 years, Amravati stayed awake, praying for her daughters safe return but the nights turned to days and days dragged onward with no news and sign of Janvi.

Countless visits to the Police station, countless instances of refusal to help, countless prayers and half a decade later, there is still no information about Jaanvi. Her mother, though inconsolable, has not given up hope of her daughter’s return.

Jaanvi’s mother is just one of the thousands mothers across the country who are hoping their missing children will be traced one day. Despite various measures by the government, the number of untraced children has witnessed a sharp increase. According to Ministry of Home Affairs data, the number of untraced children increased by a shocking 84% in the last three years. The total number of untraced children in 2015 was 62,988 as against 34,244 in the year 2013.

The situation is especially disconcerting since the number of children who go missing is increasing by the day. In India, according to estimates, 180 children go missing on an average every day. While these numbers children who go missing remain alarming, the number of untraced children keep piling year on year.

Maharashtra and Delhi remain the top two states with maximum number of untraced children. As of 2015, 9414 children have not been found in Maharashtra and 9001 remain untraced in the national capital. Assam, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana follow suit with increasing percentage of untraced children. Madhya Pradesh and Haryana have witnessed around 60% growth in the number of untraced children in the last three years.

In efforts to trace missing children, the government has undertaken several initiatives over the years. While it is too early for assessment of the impact of “Khoya Paya”- the portal launched last year, earlier portal for uploading information on missing children “Track Child” has not been an impediment to the rise in number of untraced children. The government also made it mandatory to file an FIR rather than just a Daily Diary (DD) entry when a child is reported missing.

The reasons why so many children remain untraced are multiple and need to be viewed with different perspectives. 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 data base of children is yet to see the light of the day.”

The multiple delays at the level of reporting as well as investigating is a primary factor that weakens the chances of finding the lost child. In many cases parents resort to fact finding themselves and turn to police as the last resort. Apprehension over police reaction and fear of stigma often delay the filing of the report thus weakening chances of tracking. Also, in many cases still, there is delay by the police in filing the FIR, lead to investigation being held.

Komal added, “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 day care services for children with both parents working need to be established.”

It is no surprise that Delhi High Court recently expressed its displeasure over this issue termed it akin to terrorism and called for utmost priority to streamline investigation and strengthen preventive measures.

It is for government to ensure robust investigation and streamline coordination so no more families like Janvi’s have to wait endlessly for their child to return home.

About CRY CRY – Child Rights and You (formerly known as Child Relief and You) is an Indian NGO that believes in every child’s right to a childhood – to live, to learn, grow and play. For over 30 years, CRY and its partners have worked with parents and communities to ensure Lasting Change in the lives of more than 20 lakh underprivileged children. For more details please get in touch with Nupur Kaul, , +91 9958358883