Sunday, 10 March 2013

India faces epidemic of missing children

About 60,000 children go missing every year in populous nation, and child activists say many end up in sex trade.

A staple storyline of popular Bollywood films over the years has been about siblings getting lost in a village fair or being forcibly separated by a hideous villain, only to be reunited years later. The happy endings normally spelled success: moviegoers went home happy while the filmmaker went laughing all the way to the bank.

But reel life has little resemblance to reality, and happy endings are not as common for those who go missing in India as they are on celluloid.

Official statistic shows that some 60,000 children go missing every year from across the populous nation. Though some are finally traced, many are never found.

According to Jitendra Singh, the federal minister of state for home affairs, about 22,000 of these missing children vanished without a trace in 2011.

The figures are startling and symptomatic of a scourge that's long gone unnoticed, until the findings of a commission instituted by the government in the wake of the notorious Delhi gang-rape of a young girl in December brought out the hidden dangers that stalk India's children.

The Justice Verma commission report served to jolt the nation, as it found that a child goes missing in India every eight minutes, on average.

"Children in this country are no more safe. I get worried till my daughters reach home safely after their school and tuitions," Nagurajun R, a father of two teenage girls from Hyderabad who works in the IT industry, told Al Jazeera.

For one, it's easy to get lost in a nation as crowded as India. Seven-year-old Ramu lost his way while travelling on a train with his family from Maharashtra to Uttar Pradesh. Luckily for him, he was picked up by the police, who with the help of child activists tracked down his address a fortnight later and handed him back to his distraught parents.

But similar luck mostly eludes those who fall prey to sinister designs and go missing.

Read more here.

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