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A child goes missing in India every eight minutes

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
March 12th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

One of the most populous nations in the world, it is relative easy for a child to get lost in India. Crowded city streets make it easy for children and their parents to become separated. Diligent wok on the part of families and authorities reunite these children with their parents, but still many more kids vanish for far more villainous reasons. A child goes missing every eight minutes here.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Official statistics shows that some 60,000 children go missing every year across India. About 22,000 of these missing children vanished without a trace in 2011, according to Jitendra Singh, the federal minister of state for home affairs.

There were a total of 33,098 crimes reported against children in 2011, of which 15,284 were kidnapping cases.

While India has been recently galvanized about a medical student who was gang raped aboard a speeding New Delhi bus, it has been noted that "Children in this country are no more safe. I get worried till my daughters reach home safely after their school and tuitions," a father of two teenage girls from Hyderabad says.

The missing children phenomenon in India is blamed on a number of reasons, from organized traffickers to families eager to dump their daughters, whom they see as a liability.

"This act of willful crime by parents often goes unreported or unregistered with the police," Nishit Kumar, an activist with Childline, a 24-hour helpline for children in distress says.

"Even though this is an unfortunate trend, I feel the primary reason for this is the lack of attention paid by parents - either poor, or single, or broken families," an assistant professor of computer science says, speaking out on her young daughter's safety.

"Children from well-to-do families become victims of circumstances - here too, lack of attention towards them being the prime reason," she adds.

There is also the "Kumbh Mela syndrome," which is the Hindu religious congregation that draws millions of pilgrims to the city of Allahabad on the banks of the river Ganga once every 12 years. Some fathers attend to deliberately lose their daughters in the crowd.

Kidnappings account for most of the missing. According to a report issued by the social statistics division of the Indian government, there were a total of 33,098 crimes reported against children in 2011, of which 15,284 were kidnapping cases.

The kidnappers then send the children to other countries, hold them for ransom, or force them to become beggars.

The report also noted 3,517 incidents of child trafficking, which includes the buying and selling of girls for prostitution, child marriage, and trafficking children for the illegal transplantation of organs in 2011.

India also has the largest number of child laborers under the age of 14 in the world. While the law prohibits children below the age of 14 from working, as many as 12.66 million children work as laborers.

"Very often we find kidnapped children are forced to work as cheap labor in factories, shops and homes. They get exploited as sex slaves or are pushed into the child porn industry," Delhi police spokesman Rajan Bhagat says.

It gets difficult for police or activists to trace the children, as many parents fail to give recent photographs of their lost children.

Children that are found are often quite difficult to rehabilitate. "They are addicted to the street life," Kumar notes. "It's the complete anonymity which draws kids to the streets. They enjoy complete freedom . they are not bothered by elders, they are not forced to study," Kumar says.

Other child rights volunteers agree: "If we can't take a child off the street within the first month of finding him, it's difficult to rehabilitate him later, as he gets addicted to street life. He is not at all interested to study, or to get rehabilitated."

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