Thousands of people, including a large number of women and children, who were reported missing from Tamil Nadu since 2004 remain untraceable.
Despite efforts like newspaper advertisements, pasting of photographs in public places and inter-State coordination, the whereabouts of these missing persons are unknown.
The latest data released by the State Crime Records Bureau show that till August this year, the police have not been able to locate 6,705 persons, including 1,100 children, who went missing since 2004.
Chennai tops the list of missing persons who could not be traced for years. In 2013 (up to August) alone, 6,563 persons were reported missing in the State of which 4,776 could be traced.
The fate of others, including 239 girls, remains unknown. Police say the percentage of persons traced has only increased from 72 in 2012 to 73 the next year.
Going by the views expressed by police, NGOs and child rights activists, a number of reasons contribute to a person deciding to leave home.
Among the common cases were adults opting to pursue a career of their choice, unhappy senior citizens walking out of home and girls wanting to live with men of their choice.
However, a case of missing person can also be associated with human trafficking, abduction and murder.
Investigators say all possible motives are probed before coming to conclusion.
According to State Director-General of Police K. Ramanujam a ‘Missing Persons Liaison Officer’ had been nominated in all police stations to follow up the cases in coordination with the families concerned, other agencies and police departments in other States.
“There were some cases of children being abducted and forced to work in sweet shops in the northern States.
Many agents involved in such rackets were arrested the children rescued. Besides the police website, SCRB and NCRB, we are uploading the data of missing children in the ‘National Tracking System for Missing and Vulnerable Children’,” he said.
Dr. C. Ramasubramanian, renowned psychiatrist and Nodal Officer of District Mental Health Programme, said that the report of missing children was not a healthy sign as it indicated social deterioration and erosion of values in family systems. Lack of parental care often resulted in children not getting adequate emotional or moral support.
“Children of working couples return from school early and remain alone at home for hours. These hours of loneliness can be crucial in shaping the mind, attitude and behaviour of the child,” he said.
In many cases, children who run away from home do not return even after recovering from the initial drift as they fear that the family or society might not accept them.
Films and media are also influencing the children, he added.
Quoting a recent study, child rights activist P. Manorama said that 55 per cent of runaway children revealed that they left home due to family problems. Frequent quarrel among parents, father abandoning the family, extra-marital relationships were among the factors that forced children to leave.
“I think child-parent relationship needs to be strengthened. Parental responsibilities should not stop with providing education, food and other facilities. Children crave for love and care more than anything else,” she said.
Instead of exerting pressure on their children to pursue academic excellence alone, parents should identify the inherent talent in children and promote it, she added.