Every day 18 children went missing in Delhi, data reveals

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New Delhi: The national capital still remains the hub of missing children, as per a recent statement by Delhi Police that came as a response to an RTI. Going by the data, an average of 18 children went missing in Delhi every day in 2017, amounting to a total of 6450 children (3915 girls and 2535 boys) going missing the same year, leading the state capital to retain the top spot among cities infamous for the sheer number of children going missing year after year.

Making a case for the dire need to envisage and apply solutions for this predicament, Alliance for People’s Right (APR), in collaboration with Child Rights and You (CRY), held a state-level consultation on missing children in Delhi on Tuesday. The primary objective of the consultation was to understand the gravity of the situation related to missing children in Delhi.

The discussion also focussed on policies and programmes, the status of their implementation and the gaps, identifying ways to strengthen the preventive mechanism within communities. The inextricable link between trafficking and missing children was also highlighted in the discussion where dignitaries from the government along with other stakeholders had taken part.

The talk was spread out in two panels—one, chaired by Ms. Samrah Mirza, Member, DCPCR (Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights), had members of the community vigilance groups, where the successful implementation of a model of preventive mechanism, and ways to replicate it was discussed.

The second round of talks, chaired by Soha Moitra, Regional Director (North), CRY, comprised the advisory panel recommending the way forward. The panelists for the event were—Mr Sanjeev Jain, Member Secretary, Delhi State Legal Services Authorities, Dr Joy Tirkey, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Crime Branch, Ms Cheshta, Assistant Director, WCD (Ministry of Women and Child Development), Govt of NTC of Delhi, Ms Samrah Mirza, Member, DCPCR.

To ensure that a robust preventive mechanism is in place, a model system was introduced by APR and CRY in the form of community vigilance. The model highlighted how people from every community could be empowered and entrusted with the task of observing the children in their locale, and to look out for any sign of danger or potential harm that can befall them.

“While the role of the police is paramount with regard to the issue of missing children, the Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS) suggests community-level preventive mechanisms to tackle the issue” said Soha Moitra, the Regional Director (North), CRY.

“Seen in this light, the system and society have to come together to prevent the children from going missing, as the responsibility of creating a reliable safety net around children lies both with the state and the community. Taking cognizance of the enormity of the issue, ensuring inter and intra-state coordination in investigation, rescue and rehabilitative mechanism and investing in adequate resources and trained personnel at every level are the needs of the hour,” Soha added.

“By forming a strong security net around children, their safety can be ascertained to a large extent, which is evident from the fact that there have been close to no incident of a child gone missing over the past two years within the communities that have engaged with the idea of forming vigilance groups; In a couple of instances where a child was found to be missing, the vigilance groups were able to take immediate action to notify the authorities which ensured early recovery of the child,” Reena Banerjee, state convenor of APR, said.

Dr Joy Tirkey, District Commissioner of Police, Crime Branch said that the improvement in the participation of civil society is a good sign. “We’ve to work more in tandem with AHTU (Anti Human Trafficking Units) as well as the communities and NGOs,” he said. He also added that a facial recognition system which is on the cusp of being launched will prove to be a lot more helpful in tracing the children who go missing.

Mr Sanjeev Jain, Member Secretary, Delhi State Legal Services Authority said that working in coordination with all child welfare departments is the need of the hour. “Where legal aid and infrastructure matters, we have the resources, but the important thing is to get them to the people who need these services,” he said, while emphasizing on referrals from WCD and ICPS. “We also have paralegal volunteers who can connect these services with civil socity and communities,” he said. He also spoke about the multicultural state that Delhi is and stressed on the need of interpreters and translators in CWCs.

The report also suggests that Delhi is the worst state in tracing its missing children. 6 out of 10 children in Delhi are never traced (NCRB), despite the fact that its rate of missing children is way higher than the national average.

Other aspects that have been highlighted in the report are the gender-wise segregation of the children who went missing, and the age-group-wise vulnerability of children as victims of trafficking. The report revealed that the number of missing children in the age group of 12-18 years is the highest; girl children are more in number than the boys among the missing children in this age-group, and the reasons range from child labour, commercial sex work, forced marriage, domestic work, forced begging and so on.