There has yet to be a week without a report of a missing child in West Bengal. According to the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Western state of India had a total of 14,671 cases of missing children recorded back in 2014. As a result, the state contributed a staggering 21 percent of missing children cases in the country.
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Non-governmental organization Child Rights and You (CRY) analyzed the data obtained from the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB). It was found that West Bengal topped the list for the highest number of missing girls in India, the other states being Assam, Bihar, and Odisha.
Bengal Tops List of Missing Children
Cases of missing women and children are rapidly increasing in numbers in India. Even with the chances of recovery tragically low, the families of these children continue to hold on to the hope that they might still be out there. But the numbers look somewhat grim, as 40 percent of missing children remain untraced to this day.
The Barui family had one very unfortunate experience. The nightmare began when their sixteen-year-old daughter was taken by a neighbor with the promise of a job with good pay. But things quickly went downhill when the young girl ended up in a shady hotel in Ahmedabad where she was forced into prostitution. She was finally able to escape after making contact with her brother after six months, who immediately alerted police of her whereabouts.
Poverty most likely plays a big factor. “The prevalence is highest in three districts in Bengal, including Murshidabad, North, and South 24-Parganas. It’s mostly poverty-driven and can only be stopped with a large-scale livelihood programs,” said a senior IPS officer assigned under anti-trafficking operations.
India happens to have one of the largest concentrations of people living below poverty lines around the world, so it is common for citizens to be easily tricked into thinking that they can get better opportunities elsewhere. In fact, most of these young victims are lured out of their homes and trafficked to busy districts such as Delhi, Mumbai, and Pune. Other emerging districts include Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Ahmedabad. It is truly an emerging epidemic around India, and the government continues to try to put a stop to these illegal operations.
More Missing Girls
According to CRY, 61 percent of the missing children back in 2014 were girls. But the numbers seem to be highly concentrated in West Bengal, 70 percent of the children who went missing that same year were girls. The United Nations has pointed out that despite strict laws implemented, women are still being trafficked into prostitution around the world with recruitment agencies popping around North Bengal, Kerala, and Maharashtra.
“It’s good that the state has recorded a decrease, however small it might be, in the number of missing children,” Atindra Nath Das, regional director of CRY East, said. “But going by the current trend reflected in the government data, Bengal along with some other states continue to show worrying trends in cases related to missing children. There is a close linkage of missing children to organized crime.”
While cases of missing children are relatively high in India, this also continues to be a problem for other places in the world. The challenge to protect young children shouldn’t all lie with the government and NGOs. Parents can find new ways to keep their children safe from strangers with malicious intentions. There are child tracking systems equipped with 3G technology and strategies that parents can avail. No matter what plan there is, the most important thing to consider is providing an open line of communication between the parent and the child.