Experts Speak Out About Missing Children
As part of Child Awareness Project’s #LostNotForgotten campaign, our interns spoke to various experts about what should be done if a child goes missing.
The #LostNotForgotten campaign, launched in December 2016, aims to create awareness about child abduction and trafficking. According to CRY India, about 180 children go missing in India each day. There is also an 84% increase in the number of missing children in the past 3 years. Addressing these shocking statistics and creating awareness about this forms the basis of our campaign. For more information about #LostNotForgotten, click here.
Below are compiled excerpts of correspondence with various experts* from across India, carried out by Child Awareness Project’s interns, Aswini Ramesh, Aditya Chopra, M Manasvee and K Sakthi Priya.
- What are the steps to be taken when a child goes missing? How to report a missing child?
Make a written complaint at the police station and make sure an FIR is registered [This point was stressed upon by all experts]. Madhumita, a Child Protection Coordinate at Save the Child, affirms, “it is mandatory (by Government Order) to lodge an FIR”.
“…Lodge an FIR,” — Madhumita, Save the Child.
Satyajit Ghosh, Senior Project Manager, MCA (Missing Child Alert) at Plan India, also urged parents to upload the information and a (latest) photograph of the missing child onto www.trackthemissingchild.gov.in in the citizen’s corner by filling form “M” on that portal. Satyajit says that a copy of the FIR should be sent by post/email to the office of nearest Legal Services Authority along with addresses and contact phone numbers of parents and legal guardians of the missing child or the child care institution, after uploading the relevant information onto the designated portal. “Parents can inform the Child Welfare Police Officer and forward the FIR to the Special Juvenile Police Unit for immediate action for tracing the child,” he further recommends.
S Swaminathan, a Public Vigilance Council member suggests calling the National Child Helpline — or ChildLine. Contact ChildLine at 1098.
N. Kamala, an Inspector of Police, adds that a detailed description of the child must be given. Apart from details of the child’s clothing, Parents must also provide specific identification information, like birth marks, scars – and even peculiar mannerisms!
“Contact ChildLine [at 1098]” — S Swaminathan, a Public Vigilance Council member.
2. How long to wait before reporting a missing child?
Kamala points out that the first 24–48 hours are the most crucial to find a missing child. While Swaminathan advises to report to the nearest police station immediately after a reasonable search of places where the child may go, like a friend’s house, playground etc.
3. What are the Do’s & Don’ts of reporting a missing child?
- Publish a missing child notice in a local newspaper and/or television channels. Publicise through media and social media. However, some experts did not recommend sharing the photo of the missing child with strangers. Ask for advice at the police station where the FIR is lodged, to know the appropriate protocol in a specific scenario.
- Make sincere efforts to locate parents if a lost child is found in places like railway station, malls, bus stands etc
- Seek help from NGOs
- Report by providing additional details such as height, weight, school name, unique identification such as mole, tell them when your child was missing, names and contacts of the child’s close friends, health issues (if any?), and frequently visited places.
- Invoke the services of District Legal Services Authorities through empanelled lawyers and the paralegal volunteer (PLV) appointed at the police station or the district authority.
- Upload information on the www.trackthemissingchild.gov.in portal. In case the information is already uploaded, match the complaint with the case details.
- Don’t panic and make a false report regarding your child who may be at his/her friend’s place or who may have gone out.
- Once confirmed that your child is missing, do not delay in reporting your child as missing to the local law enforcing agency.
- Do not ignore any information
4. Any Additional Information?
Kamala explains that as part of the operation to find a missing child, police teams contact shelter homes and NGOs – in the state and across the country – that rescue working children. The searches include public places like railway stations, traffic intersections, bus terminals and other spots where gangs may make children beg. Police teams usually conduct surprise raids on railway stations, small scale factories, bus stands, and restaurants that are known to employ children. CB-CID officers will also coordinate with agencies like national crime records bureau and anti-human trafficking units as well as with statutory bodies like the juvenile justice board and children welfare committees.
Satyajit adds that details of missing children would be sent to the District Crime Records Bureau of the neighbouring States and Station House Officers (SHOs) of the bordering police stations including those in-charge of all police posts in their jurisdiction and regular interaction must be conducted with the concerned so that follow up action is ensured.
P. Ramakrishnan, a Superintendent of Police (Retd.) emphasises the need for immediate reporting, “in case the child meets with an accident it would then be easier to locate and rescue the child”. He points out that calling the Police Control Room 100 would also redirect to a separate line which is exclusive for missing children.
*This article has been compiled based on verbal and written advice given by experts contacted by our interns. We would like to thank S Swaminathan, N Kamala, P. Ramakrishnan, Satyajit Ghosh, Madhumita, Udhayakumari (Sub-Inspector — Rathnagiri Police Station), Balwinder Singh & Lakhvir Singh (ASI — Punjab Police) for their inputs. Please note that the information and views expressed in this article are those of the experts consulted. For corrections, kindly email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lastly, while this information is beneficial, we hope you never have to use it.