Monday, March 12, 2007

In UP, nobody ever kept records of missing kids

Express News Service
Posted online: Friday, March 02, 2007 at 0000 hrs

After a High Court order, the government asked police stations to set up missing children cells

LUCKNOW/ KANPUR/ FAIZABAD, March 1 : It wasn’t Nithari but an Allahabad High Court directive on the call of a harried father searching for his 14-year-old son for the last two years that forced the Uttar Pradesh government to ask all police stations to constitute special missing children cells and compile figures.
It was finally on February 6, thanks to the court orders, that the government completed compilation of the figures of missing children for UP for the year 2006 and submitted to the court. As many as 3,649 children went missing in the State last year, 3016 of whom were between the age of 10 years and 18 years. (See Box).
All this has been known because of one man’s search. Vishnu Dayal Sharma, a retired postal department employee living in Agra’s Mohan Girara village, has been looking for his son Krishna Gopal since February 22, 2005, when he left for his maternal uncle Banwari Lal’s place in Jagdishpura, 4 km away from where he went to school, never to return.
Between the day he lodged a police report on February 24, 2005, and the day the High Court asked the police to act on January 3, 2007, Sharma had done the entire ladder from the local police station to the IGP but to no avail. “I felt they were not interested in tracing my son and so I moved the court,” he said.
While Jagdishpura police did start work on the court’s order, it only surprised Sharma further. The police called him and told him that Krishna’s uncle Banwari Lal had been detained because his was the last destination the boy had gone to. Sharma said, “I have no reason to suspect Banwari. The police just want to dispose of the case somehow.”
SO of Jagdishpura RK Sharma disagrees. “The maternal uncle is not a nice person and wishes to confiscate Sharma’s land and so must have prompted the boy to run away. The boy himself was not popular in his locality,” he said. Besides Banwari, the police have lodged an FIR against another boy Pradip, with whom Krishna had a tiff some 10 months ago. Asked when would be the child found, Sharma said, “Very soon.”
Sharma’s is in no way an isolated case. The Indian Express reporters in Uttar Pradesh have found at least 15 cases of children missing from one month to two years in Lucknow, Kanpur, Faizabad and many other districts — everywhere, the police were found casual and sluggish.
Take Anshuman Yadav, 17, whose father has met all the top police officers, including DGP Bua Singh, former I-G Lucknow Zone AK Gupta and former I-G Special Task Force Jagmohan Yadav. “We are planning to meet the DGP again to request his personal intervention,” Anshuman’s father Brijendra Prasad Yadav, an assistant engineer with the Housing and Development Board, said.
Ever since he went missing in May 2006, his family is scared, more so after they received a ransom letter a month after he disappeared, asking for Rs 10 lakh. The letter asked them to draw a circle on the first compartment of the Chhapra Express when it halts at Lucknow railway station the very day if they agreed to pay and they would be contacted 10 days later. That was June but the family is yet to hear again from them.
“Once, a relative received an SMS stating “Anshuman Yadav” . The sender switched off the cellphone immediately. A few days later, it was on but was quickly put off,” Brijendra Prasad said.
Investigating Officer Ishad Ali said, “This case is different from routine abductions because the kidnappers never contacted the family.” If the government took any initiative post-Nithari, it was an instruction from Principal Secretary (Home) to Director-General of Police to ask police stations to treat all kidnappings as “special report” cases wherein the Circle Officer has to visit the spot within 24 hours and the progress of the investigation is monitored up to the level of the Inspector General of Police of the zone. Inspector General (I-G) level officers have been made the in-charge of these committees.
The catch is that there is nothing new in this directive. Uttar Pradesh Police Regulations already require officers to treat disappearance of children as special crime. Former Director-Generals of Police Shri Ram Arun and MC Dwivedi both said there was nothing new in the directive. “The problem in Uttar Pradesh,” says Arun, “is the growing tendency of policemen to conceal if a missing child is suspected to be kidnapped, just to show the crime as lower.”
A Division Bench of the Allahabad High Court, comprising Justice Amar Saran and RN Mishra, also made a similar observation, referring to Nithari: “The police were either engaged in other important work or did not want to inflate the crime record.”
Police officers and NGO workers say there are broadly three trends of children’s disappearance in UP: kidnapping for ransom; children running away on their own because the family is too poor; and abduction for revenge against parents. The court has also sought to address the lack of seriousness among policemen by saying, “There should be no attempt to not file FIRs on flimsy grounds that the boy or girl has eloped. All information related to missing children should be collated.” Nothing explains the situation better than the fact that Childline, the child helpline service initiated by the Union Ministry of Women & Child Development, restored as many as 54 children to their homes out of 61 whose parents reported missing between April and December 2006 from across the state. The Lucknow district police found 300 out of 1,047 missing report cases in 2006.



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