An average 265 children are reported to go missing in India everyday- some are kidnapped and trafficked, some get lost and many also run away from their homes.

Geeta will soon return to India but 45 percent of missing children in India remain untracedImage for representation
news Saturday, October 17, 2015 - 13:49

It was more than 10 years ago that Geeta, a hearing and speech impaired girl from India is said to have strayed into Pakistan on the "Samjhauta Express" and has been stranded there ever since.

On Thursday, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj announced that Geeta's family has been traced and that she'd be brought back to India soon.

Geeta's story stands out on at least two counts.

Firstly, Salman Khan's blockbuster "Bajrangi Bhaijaan" is believed to have been inspired by her life- a hearing and speech impaired girl gets lost on the other side of the border.

The case was picked up by the media, most likely for its similarity to Kabir Khan's movie, following which the government actively got involved in it.

Secondly, Geeta can be considered lucky for though she got lost, she is likely to be re-united with her family soon.

This is not the case with the nearly one lakh children that are reported missing in India every year. Activists and child protection groups peg the actual numbers at as high as five times more than government estimates.

An average 265 children are reported to go missing in India everyday- some are kidnapped and trafficked, some get lost and many also run away from their homes due to poverty or unpleasant family conditions.

Children who go missing are vulnerable and more prone to abuse and being pushed into begging and prostitution. Childline India, an organisation that works towards the protection of children, on its website states that missing children may be exploited for various reasons- "from camel jockeys in the Gulf countries to victims of organ trade and even grotesque cannibalism as reported at Nithari village in Noida."

Earlier this year, the government launched Khoya Paya, a website which can be used by the public to post or find information about a missing child.

During the launch of the website, Maneka Gandhi, Women and Child Development Minister, said that 70,000 children go missing every year in India, according to NCRB data. Between January 2012 and April 2015, only 73,597 children have been traced, she added.

A report in states, "According to the Union home ministry’s data, over 3.25 lakh children went missing between 2011 and 2014. As many as 55% of them are girls. Forty five per cent of them remain untraced.

"It is mandatory to register FIR with the Police in case of missing child," states the Khoya Paya portal states.

FIRs however are often not filed in such cases. Sometimes the parent may not file a formal complaint to avoid administrative hassles with the police.

But, the police themselves don't register an FIR at times as well.

Nimisha Jaiswal in a blog for The Wall Street Journal writes, "Instead, when reported to a police station, the name of a child is often added to a locally-held list of names of missing children but is not necessarily investigated further. If an unidentified child turns up at the same police station, the list is consulted to see if that child has been reported missing."

When it comes to cases of missing children, India's neighbours appear to be in a less graver situation comparatively.

According to a The Times of India report, while the reported number of missing children in conflict-torn Pakistan is 3,000 every year, in China, the country with the world's largest population, the official number of children that go missing annually is 10,000.

Some of the states recording the highest numbers of missing children are Maharashtra, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh.

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