The vulnerability and innocence of children is used by many to exploit them in ways that are grossly inhuman. At an age where kids are to play and learn about the rights and wrongs of the world, they are pushed into hard labour, begging and prostitution.
From January 2011 till December 2013, a total of 10,176 children, including 5,777 girls, went missing in Mumbai. This translates to an average of nearly 3,400 missing kids a year. Of these, the police managed to trace 8,866 children, while 1,310 still remain untraced. The picture turns grimmer when weighed in the backdrop of cases that go unreported.
While it is a known fact that children who go missing from other states are brought into Mumbai and abused in various ways, the little souls trafficked out of the city are taken to other states and sold off. A senior police official on condition of anonymity said, “Many children, especially girl child, are abandoned by their parents, who then approach the police to lodge a missing complaint. These girls are usually aged between zero and five. Couples come from the economically weaker section of the society and are of the view that a girl child is a burden while a boy would help them in the future.”
Himanshu Roy, joint commissioner of police (crime), said, “In many cases even after the parents are reunited with their children, they do not bother to inform the police. Children are vulnerable and there is a high potential of exploitation. Many children don’t even know their identities. The girl child has more potential of being exploited. These children are then sent to other metro cities where they are sold and forced into child labour, begging and girls are pushed into prostitution.”
Another police officer said that young girls are usually pushed into prostitution or to work as housemaids. The deal made between the two parties is of a paltry amount. There are a lot of people with no emotions, who are indifferent towards the pain and cries of the children, he said.
“Appallingly, in many cases, it was later discovered that the child was sold off for a rate cheaper than what one gives to buy an animal. How can anyone have the heart to sell a child who does not even know his or her name?” the officer added.
Roy further said that even a single child missing from the city is a matter of concern for the police and they do everything to trace them.
Missing boys: 4,399
Missing girls: 2,019
Missing boys: 1,519
Missing girls: 2,017
Missing boys: 1,238
Missing girls: 1,741
Total number of children missing since 2011