Dispute figures in report submitted by a legislative committee

The report by a legislative committee submitted to the State government stating that 335 girls had been missing from Dakshina Kannada in the past three years has left district officials perplexed by a “problem” that had hitherto not been noticed.

The Legislature Committee on Women and Child Welfare had said 335 girls had been reported missing since 2011. The committee blamed the local police for the staggering numbers, and sought a “high-level inquiry” into the matter.

However, both the Mangalore Police Commissioner’s Office and the Office of the Superintendent of Police, Dakshina Kannada said the figures were far lower than what was being quoted in the report. Officials at both offices further said the committee had not approached them for statistics of missing cases.

Since 2011, the district police have recorded 58 cases of missing girls (that is, below the age of 18), four are yet to be traced; the city police have received 126 cases of missing girls, 10 are yet to be traced.

“In general, cases of missing persons are high here as people are more knowledgeable of the police system. They tend to file cases on the merest suspicion without attempting to conduct a preliminary search in nearby areas,” said Deputy Commissioner of Police (Crime) D. Dharmaiah.

Similarly, in the district Department of Women and Child Development, officers — especially those in charge of Integrated Child Protection Services (ICPS) – are confused by the statistics.

“So far, the issue of missing children has not been raised by the headquarters (of Department of Women and Child Welfare) nor was it thought of to have reached critical proportions here. We have asked for the statistics from the police in the district, while we have asked our panchayat-level committees to intimate the number of untraced children in the panchayat,” said Gertrude Vegas, Dakshina Kannada Deputy Director, DWCD.

Similarly, expressing surprise over the report, Narmada Anand, Deputy Director, ICPS, said: “This is a very high number according to any index. We will investigate it, but we have not viewed the district as being particularly prone to abduction or exploitation of minors.”

‘No system for probe’

Explaining that the figures were obtained from the state police headquarters, MLC Ganesh Karnik, who was one the members of the committee, said the report pointed to the “worrying” inefficiency in the handling of cases of missing children by the police and district authorities.

“There is no proper system to investigate missing cases. Dakshina Kannada is particularly vulnerable as it is a border district, and child trafficking is relatively easier,” he said.

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