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When toddler Ishaan, the son of a businessman, went missing, Delhi Police went into a tizzy, deploying 15 teams to look for him and tracing him in two days. Not everyone’s so lucky though. According to official figures, 550 children have gone missing in the capital since January, of whom only 146 have been found.

The issue of children going missing in Delhi, especially girls, is a major cause of concern. According to the Zonal Integrated Police Network (ZIPNet), from Jan 1 to April 26 – that is, in 116 days – 550 children were reported missing.

A police official told a newspaper agency: ‘Last year, an average of three such incidents was recorded on a single day. But this year, it has risen to five per day. Alarmingly, the number of girls is around 60 percent in such cases.’

Social activists working on the issue fear that most of the girls going missing are trafficked into the sex trade. What is also worrying is the low percentage of recovery of these missing kids.

A member of the Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA), a child rights NGO, said: ‘The parents of Ishaan in Delhi or, for that matter, of six-year-old Karnit in Mumbai are very lucky to have found their children. But it’s a fact that they come from a certain class of society. Do police break into such a tizzy when a child of a poor man goes missing?’

‘One hundred and forty-six children being recovered means the rate of recovery is just 26.5 percent. Of these, the lowest recovery rate is from the southeast district of Delhi, comprising areas like Sarita Vihar, Badarpur and Jamia Nagar, at six percent,’ the BBA member said.

Amar Choubey is a distressed parent who can only wish that fate would be as kind to him as it has been to Ishaan’s parents. On March 19 this year, his son, Akash, went missing from right in front of his house in Delhi and has remained untraced until now.

‘Akash was playing in the street in front of our house with his friends when all of a sudden we realised that he was missing. Initially, we thought that he may have hidden somewhere. But when he did not come after some time, we were alarmed,’ Choubey said.

‘We looked for him everywhere…it was shocking because everyone living on the street knew Akash. We lodged an FIR the same day, but till date there is no information on him,’ the heartbroken father said.

Another child who went missing more than a year and a half ago and remains untraced is one-year-old Anjali.

On Sep 27, 2009, Urmila, her mother, took her to the hospital for a check-up in south Delhi. She was in the queue to get the registration slip and when her turn came, she put Anjali on a bench and turned to get the slip.

‘She was talking to the registration clerk for a minute or two and when she turned to pick her daughter, Anjali was not there. She searched for her daughter madly in the whole hospital. She even informed the hospital authorities immediately, but they blamed her for being careless,’ said Rakesh Senger of BBA.

‘Urmila reported a missing complaint at the Okhla police station immediately. However, even after one and a half years, the search for Anjali is on but no trace has been found by her relatives and police,’ he said.

An RTI filed by BBA revealed that 60,000 children go missing in the country every year. ‘In Delhi alone, 13,570 children have been reported missing between January 2008 to October 2010,’ Senger told to a newspaper agency.

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