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Association of Retired Senior IPS Officers (ARSIPSO)

This is with reference to my letter No. ARSIPSO/GS-BSD-4/2023 dated. 10/08/2023 on the 4th B.S. Das Memorial Lecture, which had to be rescheduled for unavoidable reasons.

The 4th B.S.Das Memorial Lecture to be delivered by Shri Anil Kumar Sinha, IAS (Retd.), on the subject Disaster Management: Creating Safer Communities, has now been rescheduled for October 14, 2023 as per the following:

Conference Room No. 2, India International Centre, Max Mueller Marg, New Delhi, October 14, 2023 (Saturday)



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MISSING CHILDREN - Sankar Sen, IPS

 
 


Reports in the press that 60,000 children below 18 were found missing in 2009 as compared to 44,000 in 2004 should be a matter of serious public concern. Earlier, a research study sponsored by National Human Rights Commission and conducted by the Institute of Social Sciences, 2005, revealed that any given year an average of 44,000 children are reported missing and of them 11,000 remain untraced. This, however, is just a tentative and unrealistic estimate because data collected from police records are inadequate and incorrect. Many cases are not reported, or if reported, not registered by the police. Missing children end up in a variety of pathetic situations-killed and buried in neighbours backyards (as in Nithari serial killings), work as forced labour in illegal factories/ homes, exploited as sex slaves or forced as child beggar in begging rackets.

NHRC’s “Action Research on Trafficking” has shown through several case studies the linkage between “trafficking' and persons reported missing.” Many of these missing children are trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation, or forced labour and other forms of abuse. Unfortunately, the police seldom properly investigate cases of missing children. Normally, investigation of a crime commences with the registration of an F.I.R (First Information Report) in the police station. Registration of an FIR, presupposes a cognizable offence. But in the case of a missing person or child, no formal FIR is registered in the police station; only a missing person entry is made in the police station diary. The Station House Officer forwards the information to the Superintendent or Deputy Superintendent of police who in turn forwards it to the Chief of the police. Local police officials publicize the particulars of the missing person in the media by circulating available identification details and photographs. After this, no further serious efforts are made to locate the missing children. There are no sustained follow up efforts to locate the missing children.

At police headquarters, information regarding missing person are lodged with Missing Person Bureau, a wing of the State CID. They in turn forward the message to the State Crime Bureau and to the Missing Person Wing of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) in New Delhi, which operates under the control of the Ministry of Home Affairs. NCRB acts as a documentation centre. It does neither investigate nor does it monitor or facilitate recovery of missing children. Police stations also do not give feed backs to the NCRB whether the missing child is traced or returned. Thus despite being the missing national repository of Crime Data, NCRB remains unaware of children who are traced and those who remain untraced. Further, there is no analysis of problem of missing children in the Annual Crime in India report published by NCRB.

Thus, virtually under the existing arrangements no serious efforts are being made to trace the missing children. This constitutes a big loophole in our existing arrangements of prevention and control of crimes against children. I still recall with some measure of satisfaction that when I was posted as Range DIG, in Rourkela, Orissa, I could help an anxious father who was an engineer in Rourkela Steel Plant to trace out his only son because I could detail an officer exclusively for investigation of this case .The child could be traced by the investigating officer in a Mumbai dhaba after a week. However, this is not possible in every case because of man- power constraints.

The Supreme Court in the writ petition No 610/1996, Horilal, Commissioner of Police, Delhi, issued a number of useful guidelines with regard to steps to be taken for tracing out missing and kidnapped minor girls and children. These guidelines include publishing the photographs of missing persons/children in the news papers, enquiries about missing children in educational institutions issuing hue and cry notices and setting up a multi task force under state CID for locating missing girls and women.

In USA, private non-profit organizations like National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) provide free services to the families of kidnapped and sexually exploited children. It also serves as a clearing house for information about missing and exploited children. In India, there are NGOs like Children India Foundation (CIF) and National Centre for Missing Children (NCMC) who have hosted Websites displaying photos of missing children for whom the police are conducting enquiries. Unfortunately, there is no systematic coordination and cooperation between the police and NGOs dedicated to this endeavour. Indeed, efforts to trace out missing children remain ad-hoc and slip shod.

There is an urgent need for a National Data Base and monitoring Centre. For this, NCRB should establish a National Tracking System that could encompass locating and tracking missing children at grassroots levels. The database has to be updated on a regular and systematic basis and the information, which is gathered, has to be properly disseminated. It may be mentioned in this connection that Delhi police has introduced since 2006 computerization of missing persons data. Before computerization of data, tracing of missing persons was about 25%. It jumped to 73% in 2006 and about 80% of missing children were traced. This is a notable achievement. Global display of available information has helped not only the police but the general public also.

As per the orders of the Delhi High Court, a cell relating to missing person /children has been set up in the Central Bureau of Investigation and entrusted with the task of coordinating efforts all over the country for tracing missing persons and children. However, due to resource constraint, the cell is not functioning effectively. It is necessary to strengthen the cell in order to enhance its capacity to coordinate and investigate criminal cases relating to missing children.

The Committee set up by the NHRC under one of its members P.C. Sharma has given a bold suggestion that preliminary enquiries into cases of missing persons could be outsourced by the police to NGOs who are willing to undertake this task. Such NGOS can be notified by the State government .MHA may issue appropriate guidelines to the NGOs in this regard. Synergy between law enforcement agency and the NGOs will be of great use and help in this regard. In the words of the NHRC committee, missing children constitute “a veritable black hole in law enforcement". Unfortunately, the police have so far failed to acknowledge gravity of the problem and steps to trace out or recover missing children remain a matter of low priority. In order to successfully grapple with the growing menace, there is need for strong political commitment, mobilization of resources and coordination between police, social service, administration and other institutions of civil society.


The views and facts stated above are entirely the responsibility of the author and do not reflect the views of this Association in any manner.

 
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