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Delhi's shame! 19 children go missing daily

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Delhi's shame! 19 children go missing daily

Most of them picked up for child labour, prostitution, illegal adoption crime training, shows police data of last 10 years.

Seven-year-old Radha, the only child of her parents, went missing in 2013 from outside her residence in Delhi's Inderpuri. She was playing with her neighbourhood friends and didn't return home by late evening. Six years on, she remains untraced.

"We looked for her everywhere and approached the police as well. They filed a complaint but nothing happened," said her father Rupesh.

Similarly, 10-month-old Chhotu went missing from New Delhi Railway station in 2011 when her parents were waiting for a train to Bihar.

"All of a sudden, we realised that he is not with us. CCTV footage later showed a woman walking away with a child in her arms. But their faces were covered. After years of investigation, police said Chhotu might have been kidnapped for illegal adoption," said his mother Mamata, a resident of East Delhi's Ram Nagar. Radha and Chhotu are among 19 children that go missing from Delhi every day, according to Delhi Police's data. Of these 17 % children remain untraced, the data says. Across all age groups, the daily number of people going missing in Delhi is 60, police data of the last 10 years shows. The number for adult is 40.

Out of the 2,15,216 persons missing in Delhi since 2008, 73,675 were minors. While 60,210 missing children have been traced, 12,465 haven't been found, according to the data reviewed by Mail Today.

THE CURRENT YEAR

In 2019, till May 15, of the 2,324 missing children, 1,241 have been traced, while 1,083 remain missing. This means 46% of these kids are yet to be found.

Most of them were picked up for child labour, prostitution, illegal adoption and crime training, a Mail Today deep dive has revealed. The police say that organised gangs are behind these kidnappings.

This, despite efforts by the police through their various programmes like 'Operation Smile', 'Operation Milap' and 'Operation Muskaan' aimed at reuniting missing children with their families.

Last year, the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR) identified 50 areas in the city from where cases of missing children are regularly reported. "Delhi has become a source and transit point for trafficking. This is the prime reason such high numbers of kids are going missing in the Capital," said Swati Maliwal, Chairperson of Delhi Commission for Women (DCW).

She blamed poor policing as one of the major factors behind these kidnappings in the city. "Delhi Police's investigating officers don't care for missing reports. They lose crucial hours when a fruitful investigation can be done, allowing kidnappers to get an easy escape and relocate kids," she said, quoting a recent case of Nihal Vihar where a seven-year-old girl was kidnapped, gang-raped and dumped in open. The parents claimed that they had lodged a missing complaint but cops did not bother to search her.

SAVE THE GIRL CHILD

Out of 9,899 untraced teenagers since 2008, 70% are girls. "Teenage girls are in high demand in the prostitution racket. They are abducted, kept in hideouts, starved for days and then trained in the flesh trade. They are also sent and sold outside Delhi and abroad as well," said Rishi Kant, Co-founder of NGO Shakti Vahini.

A member of NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan said that teenagers are also preferred as domestic helps labourers. Last year, Delhi Police along with the NGO raided some factories in Sultanpuri and rescued 39 children aged 10-14 years. A senior police official in the Crime Branch said: "Kidnapping of children below eight years of age is mainly done to sell them to people interested in adoption. Mostly, the adoption of boys is in demand. As a result, the rate of kidnapping of boys is always high."

Another investigating officer said that organised kidnapping rackets in the National Capital are targeting small children. "Hospitals, parks, stretches outside homes, railway stations and crowded markets are the most vulnerable spots from where kids are abducted. Most of the time, women kidnappers are used," said another Crime Branch officer.

(Some names have been changed to protect identity)