Only three cases of missing children have been reported so far

Though inaugurated recently with pomp and promise, the Missing Child Bureau in the district has yet to stabilise.

Inaugurated on January 17, the MCB would act as a co-ordinating agency to trace down children who have been reported missing in police station or on the website www.missingchildsearch.net or through calls 8970301039/08251-234722.

However, in the three months since, the bureau has not received even one phone call from the public, while only three cases of missing children has been reported to the bureau.

In perspective, a total of 67 children were reported missing in the district (combining district and commissionerate figures) in 2013. Extrapolating the figures, the district sees an average of nearly 17 children missing every three months.

“The awareness among the public is low. Moreover, the system is still stabilising. We have one person who is yet to be appointed; while, we still haven’t gotten space in Mangalore. We are still operating from Puttur,” said Ravichandra K., Coordinator of the bureau. The bureau is being run by the Puttur-based Karnataka Integrated Development Society.

Lack of awareness

The lack of awareness seems not only with the public, but with government departments as well.

The primary objective of the MCB is to coordinate with the police, health, labour woman and child welfare (DWCD), and education departments to track the child. That is, if a child is found unaccompanied or reported missing, the bureau is intimated, who then track the child through their database of fit institutions, and other states.

However, the MCB has only been intimated by institutions coming under the Child Welfare Committee (CWC).

“After the police file an FIR, the MCB is supposed to be intimated with the details. In some cases, the child is tracked immediately. But, even in the others, the bureau is not being contacted. Awareness is low,” said Gracy L. Gonsalves, district child protection officer. She said with the code of conduct and electioneering, the programmes planned had been stalled.

“We will start panchayat-level awareness programmes, to cover Self- Help Groups, anganwadis after the elections. For the police department, these programmes have to be done repeatedly for awareness to seep in,” she said.

Asha Nayak, Chairperson of the CWC, said they now relied entirely on the MCB for tracing the children. “They are facilitators and co-ordinators. But the coordination chain has weak links. Awareness, lethargy and lack of interest may be the reasons for it,” she said.

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