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India’s rising number of missing children can now hope for some respite. The Supreme Court this week issued notices to the government on a petition filed by NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan on the callousness of the police in tracking missing children.
What should disturb every person is that majority of 60,000 children who went missing in just 2009 were girl children. One can imagine where they landed — in brothels or in flesh trade markets. They are there at the age when most young girls think about their prospective careers or a life after marriage.
It does not require a supercop to unearth some of these most organised rackets. The poor parents, in many cases, are forced to sell their girls to traffickers for a paltry sum. One of the major reasons is that their marriage requires a lot of money and many parents want to get rid of them at any cost. In some other cases, abject poverty is the cause for taking this drastic step. In the least number of cases, the girls are taken away in the guise of providing them a lucrative job in cities. That does not happen and they end up in flesh trade.
Horrifying tales on how girls are exploited by traffickers are well recorded in police records. They are just not raped. They have to face the worst form of physical, mental and sexual abuse before they are turned into sex workers. They are locked in dingy rooms for days and treated even worse than slaves.
A visit to Delhi’s GB Road could provide an insight into their plight. A few months ago I was there to buy sanitary ware and I came out of a shop for a smoke. A man in his mid twenties approached me and offered a teenager for a paltry sum of Rs 200. I did not show any interest. Later, a man in his mid-forties came and said I can choose from an array of girls from Nepal, Bangladesh and northeastern India. Shocked at their guts of touting in a broad daylight just opposite to the police post, I threw my cigarette and went inside the shop.
I tried to find out more details about the racket from the shopkeeper. He told me that girls are stocked in small rooms in the entire lane. Many of them are forced to take drugs to remain in business of severe physical abuse and some are hardcore drug addicts. When I asked why the police don’t act, the shopkeeper told me they get a regular payment from madams who run the brothels. They only act when there is a pressure from top or there is adverse news in newspapers.
It remained me of a stark figure — 60 % of the children who missing in India are not traced. I realised that many of the girls may have been kept captive in these rooms without their parents having any clue. And, I was told by an old police friend that a girl is sold up to Rs one lakh in these brothels — a price for sucking someone’s life.
I admit that I also shouldered over the issue like many Indians and got busy with my daily life.
Bachpan Bachao Andolan, which has been running from pillar to post to get justice for some of these missing children, finally took a bold step to file a public interest litigation in the Supreme Court. “Police investigates less than 15 % of these cases seriously for obvious reasons,” said PM Nair, an Indian Police Service officer, who had worked on child issues with the United Nations and National Human Rights Commission on its study in 2004. He was the one to first highlight the cause of missing children in India and is also instrumental in getting the PIL filed.
It all started after the RTI replies filed by the states showed that the police investigates just 15 % of complaints it receives because of manpower constrains and lack of coordination between police of different states. Implications were apparent in case of three children from Delhi, who were found in a brothel, a roadside eatery and in a begging gang six months after they were reported missing.
The Supreme Court notice may stir the police and other authorities into action. It should. Or else, the children, who are country’s biggest treasure, will continue to lose their childhood for the lust of a few who run these human trafficking rackets.
Just a heart rendering statistics to rake up the readers of this blog —seven children, mostly from extremely poor families, go missing every hour with a count of 165 a day.