Shabra’s nine-year-old daughter went missing from Jahangirpuri slums in 2008. Now over four years later neither the police and courts nor child rights commissions have been able to help her and her husband find their daughter.

"The police demanded money to help us find our daughter and we are just too poor to now continue our search. We appeal to the government is to help us locate her," said Shabra, speaking at a public hearing on Monday organised by Child Rights and You and Alliance for People’s Rights which saw the participation of parents and those working in the area of child rights.

The objective of this public hearing was to understand the trend for increasing number of missing children, and state the reasons, challenges and difficulties encountered in their search.

At the meeting, parents of missing children from across Delhi presented their case before the panel comprising National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, Integrated Child Protection Scheme, Delhi and officials from Delhi Police.

NCPCR member Nina Nayak said: "As soon as the child goes missing, all the relevant child protection stakeholders should be alerted for fast tracking of the case. Inputs of family are paramount in the process of tracing the child and it should be done in a professional manner. There should be convergence between all child protection authorities in the State”.

A report on the status of missing children in Delhi, which threw light on the lack of coordination between various departments of the State, was also released during the public hearing.

“The figures of missing children collected from RTI’s, ZIPNET (Zonal Integrated Police Network) and NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau) are different, which shows the lack of convergence between child protection agencies. This is a matter of serious concern for implementation of child rights in the State,’’ said Child Rights and You regional director (north) Soha Moitra.

Stating that adequate human/material and financial resources should be invested towards establishing an effective system of tracing missing children, Ms. Moitra said: "There are no timelines for police department to trace missing children which shows the apathy and non seriousness towards handling these issues.’’

The stakeholders noted that there is a need for proactive support from various sectors to address the issue of missing children in a systematic way. "There are important questions to be answered. Where did these children go? Were they abducted? Were they sold for money? Are they still alive?’’ she demanded to know.

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