Family issues play a big role in children running away from home
Though scores of children routinely go missing every month across the State, a majority are eventually traced and reunited with their families, thanks to committed child activists, concerned public, government-backed helplines and the police.
Child helpline coordinator Jennifer estimated the success rate at 60 per cent. “We usually find at least 15 children in Bangalore city every day. Many are found in railway stations and bus stands. Most of the boys are aged between 11 and 15 and girls between 14 and 18,” she said.
Family is a factor
Runaways make a dash for it for a variety of reasons. “Many are curious about bigger cities; others come in search of work while some leave due to peer influence, problems in schools or in their families. In fact, family issues are the prime factor in most cases, Ms. Jennifer said.
Most runaways end up as labourers hired illegally in small businesses. Raids conducted under the Urban District Commissioner G.C. Prakash in Bangalore resulted in the rescue of 50 children in January and last week.
Vasudev Sharma, executive director of Child Rights Trust, said that many missing children are forced into child labour. “They may be forced to work in hotels and small industries, and even get dragged into prostitution. They are also used for begging, stealing and in other petty crimes,” he said.
We need one here too
Following a writ petition (Civil 5365 of 2012), the Delhi High Court on February 13, 2013 directed the Railway Ministry to provide care and protection to children found on trains and railway platforms.
Mr. Sharma said that though it is applicable all over the country, it would help if the Karnataka High Court too came up with a specific order for the State.
In cases where the missing children may have got into petty crimes, NGOs refer them to the Special Juvenile Police Unit (SJPU), which deals specifically with children in conflict with the law.
SJPU Coordinator P.N. Basavaraj said that in one such case, a runaway minor from West Bengal, who had come to Bangalore in search of work, was involved in circulation of fake currency notes. “In such cases, a child-friendly procedure has to be adopted. As he provided us with the address of his home in Kolkata, we immediately [contacted] his family following which he was reunited with them,” he said.
The numbers last year
Last year, 4,124 children were reported missing in Karnataka. Of this, Bangalore City and District together accounted for 1,674 cases. In Bangalore city alone, 1,420 children were reported missing in 2012. Of this, 767 were boys (536 were traced) and 653 were girls (606 were traced).
Fr. Jose P., director of Missing Child Bureau, said that the bureau specifically received 4,031 calls about children missing from all over the State in 2012, of which 2,614 were from Bangalore Urban district (including city limits).
“Many of the families approach NGOs but are not ready to file a police complaint, thereby making it difficult to detect such cases. We consider only those calls reported by families searching for their children as missing cases. There are also cases where children leave their houses in the morning and are found at railway stations selling wares or go out of the city without their parents’ knowledge, but return by evening,” he said.