Monday, February 19, 2007

In Capital, every second missing person is a child

Nithari wake-up call: Delhi cops open nine new cells, new circular alerts ranks, explains drill to locate kids

NEW DELHI, FEBRUARY 12:Of the 15,000 who went missing from the Capital last year, 7,000 were minors — almost every second case brought to the police notice was that of a missing child. As it grapples with these cases and learns from the Nithari serial killings in neighbouring Noida and the conduct of the police there before the chilling discovery, the police in Delhi have started reworking priorities.
Police Commissioner K K Paul has held more than one meeting on missing children and a circular has been issued to all units reminding them of the drill in such cases. Post-Nithari, a review of cases of missing children is taken up every Tuesday at a meeting Paul holds at the police headquarters.
In addition to the existing missing persons cell, the police have nine new new cells on the job across the city. This too is post-Nithari. Joint Commissioners and Assistant Commissioners, who will be responsible for these cells in addition to their current assignments, have also been identified. Joint Commissioner (Crime) Ranjit Narayan says ‘‘the entire system has been streamlined further’’.
Neeraj Thakur, DCP (Crime) who tracks the progress on cases of missing persons, says ‘‘there is no clear pattern of how and from which parts of the capital do most children go missing. There are as many cases of children going missing, say, from Vasant Kunj to a resettlement colony like Sultanpuri. What’s somewhat common is that children go missing or run away after quarrels at home or from the exam stress. Very often, parents do not get back to the police, especially if it involves girls approaching adulthood.’’
Delhi police say though figures for children gone missing are very high, so’s the recovery rate. Narayan says the 2006 recovery rate was a high 88 per cent.
‘‘This figure would be higher if parents of all children who are traced or have returned home voluntarily get back to the police. Mostly, it’s only the incident of the child gone missing that is reported to the police. Not the child`s return. Often in cases involving missing girls, we find that the family has shifted home. The neighbours tell us that the girl has returned. The fact is that our recovery rate is higher than in several Western countries,” says Narayan
The Indian Express accessed an internal circular sent to all district chiefs by Narayan on February 6 on the subject of missing children. The three-page note indirectly refers to the Nithari incident: “New experience has shown that conducting a search of the immediate area (including drains) would be useful.”
In the circular, eight steps have been listed for the investigating officer (IO) when a child is being reported missing. Spot investigations involve nine stages. The police have identified at least five “motives” behind a missing child:
• Sexual
• Murder — Act of killing itself could bring arousal/gratification
• Ransom — The abductor could make contact
• Profit — In cases of trafficking
• Miscellaneous — personal vengeance by childless mother etc
The new circular notes that “in many cases the culprit resided, worked, frequented or had some association with the immediate area frequented by the missing child. Often it has been seen that the culprit had even been contacted by the IO during initial investigation but went undetected because of hasty and cursory nature of the inquiry/investigation. A very important lesson to be learnt from these cases is that there is no substitute for thoroughness in executing a prompt neighbourhood investigation and search.”
While police blame parents for not getting back to them, it’s also a fact that it’s not easy reporting a missing child and hoping the police swing into action immediately. Autorickshaw-driver Kundan Lal’s son Babloo disappeared from near their home on December 11, 2005. Bimla, the boy’s mother, says no one saw Babloo leave. As Kundan Lal was away, neighbours lodged a missing complaint at the Sangam Vihar police station. The next day, Kundan Lal went to the police station to lodge an FIR. “They refused to lodge an FIR, telling me to look for my child first. I kept visiting the police station but they told me to trace my son,” he says.
Many visits later, the police, says Kundan Lal, agreed to an FIR. “They asked me to arrange a vehicle for the policemen who would go in search of my son. I decided to take them in my auto.” For a week, Lal, who plies a rented autorickshaw, took the policemen wherever they asked him to. A week later, he couldn’t fund the rides anymore.
Kundan Lal approached the National Human Rights Commission on January 25, 2006. Acting on his complaint, the NHRC wrote to DCP (South District) and DCP (Vigilance) asking them to submit an Action Taken Report within two weeks.



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