09 January 2014 08:15 | By Santirta Martendano, Ed Solid
India's Missing Generation

The number of missing children in India is alarmingly high: 725 such cases were reported in the beginning of 2013



India's Missing Generation (© REUTERS/Mansi Thapliyal)
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Between 1 January and 8 May 2013, 725 children were reported missing in New Delhi, according to India’s Zonal Integrated Police Network sites. According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), one child goes missing every eight minutes. There are officially over 55,000 children missing, although that number could be much higher. The Maharashtra state in India has the largest annual average of 13,881 missing children. It is estimated that 40 per cent of all missing children in India are never found.

It is a chilling epidemic where the majority of the missing children are exploited for prostitution, slavery, or become victims of organ trade and murder - a famous case of which is the Nithari Killings in 2006. 40 young children and women were associated with the case, although only remains of 17 children were found.

Many children are simply snatched away, kidnapped for ransom, or run away due to a difficult or aggressive environment and become lost. Children from the slums are often easy targets, enticed by their kidnappers with the promise of food and clothes. It is not uncommon for them to be maimed and forced to beg on the streets by gangs.

In a lot of cases, missing children reports by poor families are not taken seriously. They are merely an entry in the list of missing persons at the police station. Cases are only investigated and a First Information Report (FIR) filed if a person reports the missing child as a case of kidnapping. In Mumbai, only 98 out of 5,198 cases of missing children since 2010 were filed as an FIR.

Addressing the abysmal lack of police action taken to find these missing children, the Supreme Court issued guidelines in May 2013 for an FIR to be filed for every missing child case, while the Delhi Police are responsible for ‘Pehchaan’, a programme which takes pictures of children in the slums for record purposes and gives a copy to their families.  However, could it be a case of too little, too late for many Indian parents across the country?

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