On a visit to Delhi very recently I happened upon a small ad with a blurred photograph of three children aged 6,8 and 10. The legend on the top said Missing.
The three small children reportedly left their home that Monday evening at 7 pm and had not been seen then. Their photographs have been published in the paper by the fathers who are both brothers and share the surname Rawat.
According to reports the New Friends Colony police station finally took cognizance of the disappearance after local residents of Taimoor Nagar and Chittragaon demanded some action. In these heartbreaking circumstances the slowness of the response needs to be addressed. If our children are not safe who is?
How much of the system will be activated for Vikesh, Shilpi and Rohit to ensure that they are not already in the child slavery pipeline?
I wrote the piece and sent it to half a dozen outlets. It got the lowest priority. It was a non story, happened all the time. More than appalled I pushed one editor to carry something. He said the incident was so common that it would not get any traction at all. It just has no news value. I am thinking of these three frightened kids pulled out of the security of their home, now abused and used by strange individuals and our general approach to children’s safety. Even the media is jaded.
The atmosphere in Taimoor is stressed and tense and one of deep despair. Unlike the 24/7 helplines we watch on TV shows like Law and Order in reality it is a lot more frustrating when it comes down to hunt.
The ‘Save the Children’ foundation has called for an end to child exploitation by 2030.
It is committed to ensuring that violence against children is no longer tolerated and that the most vulnerable children around the world are protected. They intend to do this by:
Strengthening families and caregivers with the knowledge and skills to protect children;
Working with governments to develop and implement protective policies for children;
Supporting relevant duty bearers and other partners, like social workers, clinic staff, teachers, and police, to effectively implement and coordinate appropriate services for children; and listening to and involving children in their own protection.
Were these three children so armed? The answer is a resounding no. According to the National Human Rights Commission of India, 40,000 children are abducted each year. Of these as many as 11,000 remain untraced. NGOs estimate that 12,000-50,000 women and children are trafficked into the country annually from neighboring states for the sex trade.
In the past five years child abductions have doubled. The National Crimes Bureau Record shows a steep increase of 60 percent in kidnappings indicating not just the cruel fact that there is an ugly market out there but the need for a proper squad to deal with this grotesque dimension in our society.
Attacking strangers who happen to be in the vicinity or engaging in a mob inspired lynching is not the answer. It has to be founded in community awareness and a neighbourhood watch.
In a very popular travel blog for western tourists Shalu Sharma writes: About 11 children are kidnapped in India every hour of the day of which half of them are never found. Child trafficking is the third largest profitable industry of the world and India seems to be in the thick of it. India is not only the source, but a destination and transit point for this heinous crime.
Your guess to what happens to these abducted children is as good as mine. To be used as prostitutes; the biggest reasons for child abduction, child abuse and sexual exploitation; organ trade and harvesting, ransom, as the Indian economy booms so does rise in child abduction; human sacrifice, Used as forced labour, domestic servants, to work in factories.
Used as beggars by gangs after hands and legs are chopped off, child trafficking to international borders, forced into marriages, illegal adoption, medical trials; shipped and used as child soldiers.
What greater indictment of ourselves that with such a dubious distinction we do not have a special victims unit for our children.
My story went unpublished. Not enough public interest. Goes with the territory.