Helping to restore missing children to parents

About 10,000 children are reported missing from the city every year and less than 3% of them are ultimately traced. The Hans India’s correspondent Sridhar K Penna takes a close look at the factors affecting the most vulnerable segments of population.

The figures are grim and dreadful, but startlingly true. At least one child runs away from his or her home every thirty seconds in the country! The reasons vary, but the experience is traumatic for parents who in most cases are left with no clue to trace the child. Apart from cases of children running away from homes, there is the larger problem of child trafficking in which several well-entrenched rackets are involved.

According to figures available with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), about 45, 000 children go missing each year in the State, including 10,000 from the city. Of these, nearly 1,100 remain untraced. Some NGOs attribute this to the parents’ unwillingness to register complaints with the police.

A senior representative of an NGO in Hyderabad points out that almost 30,000 girls from the State are pushed into the sex industry each year.

Andhra Pradesh is among the five States with the dubious distinction of having the highest rates of child trafficking, as the racketeers see it is a lucrative business.

A study by the NHRC suggests that low income families are the most vulnerable sections. The modus operandi of the traffickers includes one or more of the common methods of drugging, abduction, persuasion and deception. Serious investigations and committed attempts to trace girls and children reported missing are few and far between. This essentially stems from the involvement of ‘respectable’ people in trafficking.

Heralding a welcome change in crime detection, some time back the authorities made a breakthrough when some big fish, masquerading as socialites, were caught red handed in human trafficking when the victims were being sent abroad.

The Centre for Action Research and People’s Development, a city-based NGO working for child rights, has designed and implemented some pilot projects in various areas.

The programme is headed by M S Chandra, who has on his team fellow social activists M Subhash Chandra, Shyam Sundar Reddy, Kiran Valipa Venkat and Chinmayi. They identify, trace and expose the high magnitude of avoidable hysterectomies.

The CARPED team worked to put an end to child marriages among the Gangireddula community and developed community-specific IEC material on HIV/AIDS in a tribal language (the first educational film on HIV/AIDS in a tribal language). Chandra says that they are striving to help missing children reach their homes.

Their project aims at creating a model for NGOs/volunteers in tracing missing kids, locating their parents and in sensitising the stakeholders on the grim reality. Subhash says their relentless pursuit has helped in tracing and restoring over one hundred children to their biological parents. It is no mean achievement, considering they have done it just eleven months as of September 2011.

“We traced children in Delhi, Sholapur, Bangalore, Gulbarga, Orissa, Chittoor, Mumbai and Nalgonda. Most of them were natives of Nizamabad, Basheerabad (Mahabubnagar) Virava (Khammam), Erpedu, Madanapalle, Shamirpet, Medak and some were from far-off Nepal.”

It was a major victory for CARPED when its representatives raided Prabhat Circus in Chittoor and rescued 27 children, including nine from Nepal. Indicating the ordeal which the rescued children went through, Shyam Sundar he said: “The situation was deplorable and grossly inhuman, to say the least. Minors were forced to work for long hours and allowed to sleep for only four hours. What they got to eat was unhygienic and less than required. Some of the boys were a mere seven years old.”

A parent in Basheerabad, whose kid was traced by a CARPED team, felt relieved: “My child is alive in New Delhi. | was getting worried when news spread of a child sacrifice in the nearby village just a week ago”.

A parent in Nizamabad lost his kid five years back and the child is yet to be traced. He has since shifted to a new place of posting, while his wife resides in the same old house waiting for the son to return home. “We feel we have been able to do our bit to reduce the plight of some parents. Our efforts are catching on.

Recently, Aleesha Miller, a volunteer from the US worked on the cause to create more awareness,’ says Subhash. He adds wistfully: “”We have miles to go.”

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