6 kids go missing every day in Delhi city

6 kids go missing every day in Delhi city
19 Feb 2009
NEW DELHI: The numbers paint a scary picture. In the 17 days of this month alone, 72 children have been reported missing from the capital. If you think this month has been particularly bad for Delhi’s children, take a look at the figures since January 1, 2008. During this 414-day period, as many as 2,503 children have disappeared – an average of 6 missing kids every day.

And these are official police figures culled from Zonal Integrated Police Network (zipnet.nic.in) data based on actual complaints. The real number could well be higher.

The scale of the tragedy becomes clear if one looks at number of recoveries. During this period, just 368 missing children were recovered, including many who had disappeared before 2008. The import is clear: An overwhelmingly large percentage of parents whose kids have gone missing, aren’t likely to see them again.

The Delhi Police claim a majority of these kids have eloped, that is, willingly run away with a lover or someone else. But most parents refuse to buy this argument. Says Sambhu Kumar, father of 4-year-old Gaurav who is missing from Gokalpuri area since February 3, “My child surely cannot elope with a girl. Yet, the police say that I am primarily responsible for what has happened and that I have not been a good father. Why are they not trying to find my son?”

Under fire over the growing number of the missing, police commissioner Y S Dadwal on Wednesday announced the setting up of a new helpline. “We will start a helpline for missing children within a few weeks. Although we haven’t observed a pattern in the way the children are going missing, the matter is being investigated. For us, nothing is more precious than the safety of the children in the city,” he said.

Perhaps a good place to begin this investigation would be Gokalpuri in northeast Delhi. A whopping 115 missing cases have been reported from this police station alone. In the northeast district as a whole, there have been 540 cases in a period of 383 days.

Even the New Delhi district, considered a high security zone, have had 32 children going missing.

Some senior police officials even deny their own figures. When contacted, a senior official of northeast district claimed, “The figures are grossly inflated.” Surendra Yadav, DCP, North-East, said, “There is a need to cross-check the numbers.”

The Gokalpuri police station officers accepted that the missing cases have been a cause for concern. However, they refused to blame the force for not trying to arrest the trend. “Most families here belong to the lower strata. The level of education is low. Even common interactions between men and women are frowned upon by elders. This often leads to quarrels and elopements,” said a senior police officer who has been investigating such cases.

Commissioner Dadwal said that the case of six teenagers missing from New Sanjay Amar Colony area in east Delhi since February 11 was that of elopement. Media had highlighted the case on Wednesday. “There were two couples among the six who went missing and two other friends. We are sure that they eloped together. We have put our teams on the job to track them down,” he said.

The students had told their parents that they were going to school and would go on a picnic after that. The police have registered two cases of kidnapping.

Residents of New Sanjay Nagar colony had alleged on Tuesday that as many as 22 children were missing from the colony in a span of a few years. However, DCP (east) Anand Mohan said, “We have received complaints for only 13 such cases. We are taking these cases very seriously and have handed them over to the district investigation unit.”

Dadwal seemed confident that while the number of missing children seems to be rising, there is no pattern which could lead them to believe that an organised racket of kidnapping and trafficking is in operation.

Dadwal said, “Although slums in border areas may be vulnerable, there is still no evidence to suggest that the children were kidnapped. Sometimes, children return home but their parents don’t inform the police. We are not sitting on this issue, we are investigating it regularly.”

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