Delhi Police data show that despite a decline in the number of children who go missing, the Capital still saw nearly 6,000 such cases in 2017
Every day, an average of 16 children are reported missing in the Capital, according to Delhi Police data. This number is despite efforts made by the police through its various programmes like ‘Operation Smile’, ‘Operation Milap’, and ‘Operation Muskaan’ aimed at reuniting missing children with their families.
Numbers on decline
The success rate of such programmes is in question as of the missing kids who were eventually found this year, 66% returned on their own.
Over the last two years, the number of children that go missing has seen a decline but the number still remains high, especially that of girls. In 2017, 5,925 children were reported missing. This includes 3,597 girls and 2,328 boys. In the years 2015 and 2016, 7,948 and 6,921 children were reported to be missing respectively.
Even though the number has come down, the recovery rate remains poor. In 2015, 1,689 children remained untraced while 1,812 children reported missing in year 2016 were never found.
The children who went missing are mostly in the age group of between 6 and 15 years and belong to economically weaker families of the city. During several investigations of such missing cases, the police found that the main reasons for children running away were academic pressure, elopement, job opportunities, or because they were scolded by parents.
The Delhi police have reunited 2,658 children who were reported missing from other States and were staying in Delhi, working as rag pickers, beggars, or in factories.
Under the drives organised by the Delhi police, the children are taken into confidence and details about their native places are gained after counselling the children. On the basis of these minor clues and details, their parents are contacted and the children are handed over to their families.
All traced children are also produced in counselling centres to assess the reason behind them going missing. In some cases parents are also counselled.
“We mainly put a young child on high priority for tracing since they cannot identify the address or parents. The recovery rate is slow in cases of children over 10 years old as many of them go out of Delhi on their own and do not want to return. And in case the missing child comes back the family sometimes does not update the police on the child’s status and they remain missing as per our records,” said Madhur Verma, Delhi police public relations officer.
The police said that they have special units in every district and have anti-human trafficking unit (AHTU) under the crime branch.
Mr. Verma said the police also take the help of NGOs as sometimes the children, who have been abducted and employed as domestic helps, have been reunited with their families after volunteers of NGOs inform the police.