Mumbai Police have failed to trace children who have gone missing from the city.
Few days back messages pertaining to missing children was going viral on WhatsApp. Police Commissioner Rakesh Maria had intervened and asked people to avoid believing in rumours and police are doing their work efficiently. On the other hand, there has been a surge in the number of cases related with missing children. In 2011, the police failed to trace 101 boys and 60 girls; the number rose to 153 and 72 respectively in 2012 and to 185 and 108 respectively in 2013, said activist Chetan Kothari, whose RTI query to the Mumbai crime branch’s missing persons bureau exposed the statistics.
Between 2008 and 2015, 166 girls went missing in the area under Dadabhai Naoroji police station, from where Pooja Gaud too went missing. DN Nagar police claims to track 165 of them down. Mumbai police is yet to trace 439 of the 2,892 boys and 240 of the 2,060 girls (below 15 years of age) who went missing between 2011 and 2013. Worse, 0.6% boys and 0.2% girls, who had gone missing during this period, were either found dead or were killed later.
Pooja Gaud a class 2 student of Cama Road Municipal School had gone missing in 2013. Pooja was on her way to school with her elder brother Rohit, 10, who was studying in class IV in the same school. Pooja gave her schoolbag to Rohit and ran away, since then she has failed to return home.
ACP Vasant Dhoble, ‘Dabbang’ police officer who is heading the Missing Persons Bureau of Mumbai city said, “Our teams are always on their toes to solve the missing children cases. The percentage of missing kids has dropped as per my knowledge. Sometimes children roam around at night without informing their parents as they become worried. Also the Whatsapp messages or social media messages about missing children should be ignored as rumours.”
Advocate Sushan Kunjuraman said, “There are certain areas which the police force is not interested to search or maybe some of them are hand-in-gloves with the child trafficking gang. The missing children are probably being used to beg on the streets as poor beggars. Why those small kids are always sleeping and not awake? They are drugged and being used for begging. It is shameful that these children are robbed of their innocence and made to beg.”
“The parents of these missing kids are in distress as every day they live in the hope that one day they will be reunited with their child. The police and their various teams should be held responsible for the numerous missing children cases in the city. It is their duty to curb any criminal activity trying to spring up especially matters related to small innocent children” he added.
Santosh Goud, Pooja’s father said, “The police are helping me for searching her. It’s been two years since she has gone missing and her mother is emotionally unstable. We have been receiving fake calls for ransom but I don’t have money to pay them.”
“I only want to see my daughter once. I know there are many childless couples. If any one of them is taking care of her I don’t have any problem. They show merely show me her picture so that I know she is well. Our life is very difficult without Pooja. There is not a single minute where I or her mother doesn’t think about her. We are hoping that she will return home one day” he added.
Last year, Rakesh Maria had undertaken a special drive to trace missing girls and boys under the age of 18. He asked his team to go track those children who have been missing since last ten years. Special teams comprising an officer and at least four constables were formed to work on the initiative under the supervision of the Police Inspector (Crime) at the police station. Maria had also offered cash reward of Rs 10,500 for teams that bust begging or child labour rackets, and Rs 5,000 for every missing child traced.
When AV asked Mr Maria how many policemen bagged the rewards announced by him, he refused to comment about it. This only goes to show that despite making lucrative announcements police have failed to trace missing children.
Social Worker and lawyer Namit Bhise told this paper, “Generally missing complaints are not seriously dealt with on urgency. Every police station has a separate three-member team that gets updates and works on tracing missing kids, but rarely the staff is spared for this particular work, most of the time they are busy resolving minor cases.”
A police official spoke to AV on the condition of anonymity said, “Most of the missing incidents are happening due to the presence of intra-state gang involved in the trafficking of children. Police officials too have their own jurisdiction in which they have to operate.”
“Even though there is a centralised database of missing persons but it doesn’t solve any purpose due to the lack of coordination between the centre and states. Moreover, police too can’t perform their duties amicably due to financial constraints and inadequate budgetary allocation. Often police fail to follow up on the cases which results into the piling up of cases” he added.
Mumbai police collectively have traced as many as 2,097 missing persons including 546 minors since November 2014. To get to the root of this racket, they are also trying to track down gangs that organise kidnappings and then push the victim into begging or child labour.
Mumbai police is currently searching for 3,142 children who have gone missing in the last ten years, including 514 that have gone missing this year. According to police data, the maximum numbers of missing cases have been registered at zones VI and VII in Mumbai’s east region, maximum number of children missing are runaways between the ages of 15 and 18 years.