The number of missing children has been exponentially increasing in Kerala, according to the Home Department. The officials have stated that about 1,200 children have gone missing this year so far.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, in October, had announced in the Assembly that the number of missing children is increasing and also put forth the numbers that stated so. He said that the total number of children missing in 2011 was 952, of which 923 were traced. In 2012, the figure was 1,079 of which 1,056 children were traced. The number increased to 1,208 in 2013, out of which 1,188 were traced. This again increased in 2014 to those missing being 1,229 and those traced as 1,195. While in 2015, the number was 1,630, of which 1,617 children were traced.
One of the main concerns is that among these missing children, the number of girl children is more. This trend, according to the Women’s Commission, is a problem that requires immediate attention.
Commenting on this, Adv. Shiji Shivaji, member of State Women’s Commission, says, “It is really unfortunate to know that out of the children missing from various parts of the State, girl children are more in number. It is high time the government comes up with an efficient solution for this. I would also like to inform the parents that they should immediately contact the authorities if their child goes missing so that it is easy for the police to track them.”
Police officials, however, are of the opinion that because of projects like ‘Operation Valsalya’, they have been able to track more children who go missing these days when compared to previous years. They also informed that the Track the Child provision by the Social Welfare Department has made things easier and transparent and has also given the opportunity to the public to inform the police regarding these children. The Social Welfare Department has initiated various programmes, under which officials, who receive expert training in Juvenile Justice Act, Protection of Child Rights Act, and Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, carry out searches in locations like bus stands, railway stations, pilgrim centres and so on. They approach children who are found alone at such places in suspicious circumstances, question them and do the needful.
The Kerala Police website has provided the statistics on the crime against children from 2008-2015, in which the cases of abduction and kidnapping alone was 171 in 2015. It was only 116 in 2014 and has reached 75 in the first six months of this year. The latest numbers are yet to be published. According to an official at the Social Welfare Department, who requested anonymity, these figures only show the children who are kidnapped and that the number of children missing is far more than this. He added that there may be cases that are not even registered.
“It’s really shocking to see the plight of children in the rehabilitation centres who have been kidnapped or abducted and are traced by the police. The fear in their eyes cannot be explained and despite all our efforts there are cases where children never recover from the trauma,” he said.
The numbers reflect an alarming trend and point out that an immediate solution is very important for the same. However, implementing a solution involves more dimensions than just tracing the missing children. The real cause needs to be found and corrected.
Main photograph by Lydur Skulason via Flickr.