KOLKATA: Crime against children in India has increased by a sharp 11 per cent between 2015 and 2016 , according to the latest data released by the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB).
Going by absolute numbers, it's an increase of 12,786 reported crimes against children across the country.
The total number of crimes against children reported in 2016 was 106958, while 94172 crimes were recorded in 2015.
This, however, does not come as a surprise, as a cumulative analysis done by an NGO, 'CRY Child Rights and You', shows a steady upward trend with a significant increase of more than 500 per cent over a period of the past one decade (1,06,958 in 2016 over 18,967 in 2006).
Further retrospective comparison within the mentioned timeframe points at a sharper rate of increase in the latter quadrennium (2012 to 2016) than that recorded in the former lustrum (2006 to 2011).
Quoting these NCRB data, Komal Ganotra, Director Policy and Advocacy at CRY told PTI, "While this steep rise in numbers might have been the result of increased awareness among the people at large and the law enforcing agencies in recording crimes, it also indicates that children have become increasingly exposed to the risk of becoming victims in recent years.
" Looking at the concentration of reported incidents across the states, more than 50 per cent of crimes against children have been recorded in just five states -- Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi and West Bengal.
While Uttar Pradesh tops the list with 15 per cent of recorded crimes against children, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh closely follow with 14 per cent and 13 per cent respectively.
Going by the nature of crimes and categories as registered with the police, kidnapping and abduction clearly tops the lists with almost half of the total crimes (48.9 per cent, number of crimes 52,253) as recorded in 2016.
The next biggest category of crime against children in terms of number is rape, amounting to more than 18 per cent of all crimes against children, while all crimes under POCSO Act constitutes around 33 per cent of the total crimes.
Crimes under POCSO Act include primarily rape, sexual assault against children, sexual harassment and child pornography amongst others.
Further analysis suggests that Uttar Pradesh recorded maximum number of crimes under the categories of 'kidnapping and abduction' and 'POCSO Act', while Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh stand in the second and third slot respectively in both these categories.
A new chapter on 'Missing Persons and Children' which has been included in this year's NCRB release in compliance with the Supreme Court directives, shows that a total of 1,11,569 children (41,175 boys and 70,394 girls) were reported to have been missing.
The maximum cases were reported from West Bengal (15.1 per cent) during 2016.
A total of 55,944 children were traced at the end of the year 2016 in the country.
Ganotra said, "Going by the current trend reflected in the Government data, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh along with some other states continue to show worrying trends in the magnitude of crime against children.
"Also, this is a grim reminder of the fact that we, as a country, do not have proper prevention mechanisms in place to address the issue of child protection, nor are we keen on building more empathetic understanding and intervention plans adequately backed up by sustained investment on child security," she said.
Elaborating on the way forward on tackling increasing crimes against children, Komal added, "Child protection in our country cannot be ensured with just having legislations and numerous guidelines.
" "We as a country need to commit in cultivating a culture of zero tolerance to violence against children.
We should be vigilant and cognizant of the fact that children are at risk with gaps in infrastructure, processes and systems," she said.
Komal also urged the governments and all law enforcing agencies to equip themselves in recognising these risks and put robust systems and processes to assess and eliminate the same without compromising with them.