Apart from simple lack of
effort in tabulating the numbers, rights workers say most
cases remain uncounted because the police rarely file an
official “first information report” when they receive a
complaint about a missing child.
The Delhi police denies this
charge. “Each and every complaint is taken very seriously,”
said Delhi police press relations officer Rajan Bhagat.
“Each and every child case is registered properly [with an]
FIR and efforts are made to trace each and every missing
child.” Based on a “sample study,” he added, the police have
found that 95 percent of the children who are reported
missing eventually return home. “It is only that when the
children come back to reunite with their parents, they don't
come back to report to the police,” Bhagat said.
The truth of that
explanation is impossible to verify without accurate data on
the number of missing children. But a couple indicators of
past performance provide more than a little clarity to the
he-said, she-said war of words between rights' workers and
law enforcement. The serial child murders in Nithari, a
suburb of Delhi, in 2006 revealed that local police ignored
reports about missing kids for 18 months while more than 30
bodies piled up in a nearby storm drain. The investigation
began only after the stench led local street cleaners to the
Activists say Delhi's finest
are little better. When Save the Childhood filed a Right to
Information request demanding police figures for the number
of missing children in each of the city's districts, for
example, the commissioner from the Southeast district — one
of the worst-affected areas — sent back a request for
payment of about $2000 to cover officers' salaries and local
transportation. “It was shameful!” said Ribhu.
Meena's heartrending story,
horribly, provides something of an explanation. Though she
claims traffickers stole her daughter, the details of the
tale she told the police are suspicious. Out of work and
already in debt, Meena's husband knew all too well that a
fifth daughter meant only another mouth to feed and dowry to
amass. So although Meena claims her husband said he was
passed out drunk when the moonshiner whisked little Neeta
away, the real truth could well be that he sold her for a
few more bottles of booze.
Regardless of the truth,
this is still a case of child trafficking, a four-year-old
girl is still frightened and alone somewhere, and a mother
is still wracked with guilt and worry.
But police may feel tempted
to blame the victim. “It's a matter of what you want to
understand or believe,” Ribhu says. “In all cases of forced
labor, where we are rescuing kids, when parents approach the
police in Bihar, in West Bengal, in Jharkhand, the police
tell them, 'You took money. You sent your child to work. Now
you go get the child back.' The police is not ready to
accept that there was deceit involved.”
Four-year-old Neeta, who
will indeed likely never be found, whether she was lost,
stolen, sold or murdered, bears no blame for what happened.
“The worst thing is that I know that girls who are taken
like this are often forced into prostitution,” Meena says.
“That is the thing I can't
stop thinking about.”
( Courtesy: By
Overdorf - GlobalPost /