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Migration to the cities means more children disappear

The grim statistics on India's missing children

Migration to the cities means more children disappear
Children in New Delhi count themselves lucky to work as rag pickers
Ritu Sharma, New Delhi

October 5, 2012

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“My son was kidnapped two years ago. Kidnappers asked me to pay a million rupees but I did not have that much. I have not heard from the kidnappers since,” said Ram Prasad. Prasad’s 12-year-old son, kidnapped in New Delhi, is one of the more than 55,000 children missing in India. The Supreme Court of India has recently endorsed a petition for the federal government to take urgent action to trace these missing children. The petition, filed by lawyer Sarwa Mitter, quoted Home Ministry statistics that 177,600 children went missing between 2009 and 2011 and 55,470 are still untraced. The children are forced into prostitution, begging, bonded labor or used as involuntary organ donors. “This is a phenomenon in the whole of south Asia,” Joseph Gathia, a child rights activist, told He said that the main reason for the growing number of missing children in India is acute poverty and migration. Sometimes parents are lured by middlemen who promise better job opportunities for their children. “In some cases, parents are willing to send their children to earn some money. It’s only when they don’t hear from them for months, the parents lodge missing complaints with the police,” he said. Gathia named Delhi and Mumbai as particular hotspots where kidnapping gangs operate.  Children of people who migrate there are easy prey for the traffickers as they have no permanent shelter and are poor, he said. “Due to development projects, 20 million people have been displaced in the country and 30 to 35 percent of them are children,” he added. For some parents, the wait for their missing children could be for a lifetime as the likelihood of tracing them is low. “The success rate in finding missing boys is around 40 percent and the number is even lower for girls as they are forced into prostitution,” Gathia said. He believes that police are not overly concerned, as they have to deal with so many other criminal cases which makes tracing children a lower priority. Related stories: Welfare groups say children should be in classrooms, not toiling in fields
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