KOZHIKODE: Kerala is turning into a vortex of disappearing children, with a mind-boggling 88 declared missing and 70 tracked in the last 30 days alone. The sheer scale of missing children in recent times is indeed a cause for concern. Consider this. As per records from the Ministry of Home Affairs, and the tracking system for missing and vulnerable children ‘trackthemissingchild’ that works under the aegis of the Ministry of Women and Child Development, 867 children were reported missing and 567 tracked in the August 2016-July 2017 period. To give things perspective, the number of children trafficked in the state was only one in 2014, 75 in 2015 and 83 in 2016. Clearly, it is the fear that the state is fast turning a fertile ground for traffickers and the dangerous begging racket that maim children and invariably drive them into the sex trade that has now forced the judiciary to intervene.
Though senior police officers admit organised traffickers are operating in the state, they say all cases could not be linked to the rackets. State DGP Loknath Behera said, “The police track a number of missing children and we’ve been devising various strategies to expedite investigation in child-missing cases. Each case is different. We can’t probe a case with the general perception that rackets are behind it. There are instances where we suspect involvement of organised traffickers.” DGP (North Range) Rajesh Diwan said the state had a full-fledged system for investigation.
“We’ve anti-human-trafficking units and other wings, but still the child-missing cases are increasing every year. There may be various reasons for the missing incidents. There might be organised trafficking rackets in the state, but not all cases can be linked to them,” said Diwan.According to experts, age of a child is very important while investigating a case. “Nowadays, children in the age group of 14 to 16 have tendency to flee home, influenced by films.
The response of police to a child-missing case has to be fast. The ‘trackthemissingchild’ system implemented by the Union Ministry has been very helpful in tracking a missing child. In many cases,the police have been able to locate missing children,” said another officer.“There were also incidents in which a close relative had murdered a child and dumped the body in remote locations,” said a senior Crime Branch officer. “Only detailed investigations could reveal the truth and it’s not that easy,” said the officer.
High Court concerned
The Kerala High Court, which criticised the government’s lethargy in dealing with child-missing cases, asked the Director General of Police to inform how many children aged below 15 had been reported missing in the state in the last three years. A single judge issued the order on a plea from Thaju of Panavally, Alappuzha, seeking a state government directive to constitute a special investigation team to probe his son’s disappearance. The petitioner submitted his son Nizamudeen,15, had gone missing in