Disappearing Children in India: Legal angle
By: - Anupam Singh Sengar
It is said that the children are themselves the form of god. They play a vital role in every society. They are the future generation; they are the hope of tomorrow. With abundance of energy they are imaginative, resourceful, industrious and adventurous. There is no doubt that they are the most sensitive set of people, away from any evil or crime they are the most Nobel souls present on earth and it’s a shame for any country if they cannot even provide to them ,wings of freedom and protection. They are the potential resource of any country, as it has been correctly remarked that children are barely one-third of our population but they are all of our future. India is a large country with population more than 136 corers and children below 18 years of age constitutes about 41% of the total population according to the 2001 census. They are the guardians and masters of the tomorrow’s India. Any major task of national development is nearly impossible to be successfully completed without their pulsating enthusiasm. Children are the innocent lives like a seed which requires sunlight and requisite surroundings similarly they can only grow to their full potentials when they are provided with light of independence and requisite environment of security and prevention which is full of opportunities. But in today’s cruel reality far away from chances of opportunities these children are not even entitled to have a guaranteed right to life, at every instance they fell vulnerable because they are children, the point which should be their strength has become the worst weakness for them. At the very moment they are afraid for their lives, they continuously doubt the fact that whether they would be able to see the light of another day. In this profit desiring, rotten society crime such as kidnapping, human trafficking, organ hunt and much more have tremendously increased and the main target for all these crimes are the innocent children who are far away and unaware of the evils of the world. If we fail in protecting them we are just waiting for the unavoidable disaster which would fall on the society itself.
Miserable plight of the children:-
There are about a total of 164.5 million children in India that would define the future of India that are the valuable assets of the India. But they are in constant error of existence; they are dined of their rights, are being used as a tool for undue profits. In every eight minute a child is reported to be missing in India. According to the National Crime Record Bureau’s (NCRB) “Crime in India” 2019 report there are about 73,138 children which went to be missing in the last year. The report has also revealed that the number of missing children has increased by 8.9% in the year 2019. The pitifully situation here is that such drastic and disappointing statistics is increasing considerable instead of decreasing. These disappeared or missing children has to go through the hell on the earth itself, they are used as a bait for a good amount of money and later are killed or they are used as slaves or child labor in extra laborious processes and industries or their organs are taken from them for the business of organ transplantation. Every possible scenario in these conditions is far worse from the worst itself. Not only they are denied of their rights such as that of the education, freedom or enjoyment but also they are forced to face inhumane conditions. The children which are revived through these missing reports are less than 50% of the kids which are missing; this clearly reveals that how many children are never recovered and went unknown. This clearly indicates the miserable plight of the children in India.
Even in the situations of the pandemic this scenario has worsened, on one hand where everyone is focusing of the damages caused by the pandemic they are completely ignoring how children has become more vulnerable than ever. According to the study of the child helpline there were 2.7 lacks calls in the period of the COVID. Recently the data compiled by a NGO CRY through right to information reveals that at least 9,453 children were reported to be missing in just 5 states between January-July 2020. These states include Delhi and four neighboring States of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana. In Pandemic when there are limited sources of livelihood poor people are convinced of false promises for livelihood in exchange of their children.
Laws relating to disappearance of children in India:-
As the statistics have already shown that how unprotected our children of nation are, they need and hope for better laws for their protection and prevention. Though government is somewhat lagging behind in providing proper and significant framework of laws that relates to missing children only, even though there are many sections and acts which safeguard the interests of the child and try to protect them. Some of these laws are as follows:-
Kidnapping: - kidnapping as its name suggest that it refers to the taking away a person against his or her will, by force. It is an illegal activity which is often initiated for ransom and undue profits. As children are the most vulnerable section they are easily taken away by these anti- social agents. In Indian legal system laws relating to kidnapping lies in Indian Penal Code (IPC). It is divided into two major categories. Section 359 of IPC draws this line of classification that is:-
Kidnapping from India: - this provision of the IPC is explained in section 360 of it. It describes that if someone carries a person outside the boundaries of India without the concerned person’s consent or a person who is not entitled to give consent legally, then that amounts to kidnapping from India.
Kidnapping from lawful guardianship: - section 361 defines this kidnapping. It refers that if anyone takes away a minor, that is a boy up to age of 16 and girl up to age of 18, or a person with unsound mind, without the consent of the lawful guardian of them, then he has committed kidnapping.
The punishment for kidnapping is defined in the section 363 of IPC and says that whosoever commits the crime of kidnapping shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend up to seven years and shall also be liable for fine.
Abandonment: - It refers to willingly abandoning of a child by his or her lawful guardian who can include mother, father or someone else. Though there is no explicit law for it, it is described in the section 317 of the IPC and says that a person who is a father, mother or caretaker of a child up to age of 12 years, if he or she tries to leave child or exposes the child to any place with the intention of leaving him or her than they will be liable for abandonment and shall be punished with imprisonment up to 7 years and fines.
Child trafficking: - It is a part of human trafficking which refers to the use of fraud, force or coercion for kidnapping of a child for undue profit. It has been defined as U.N as recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring and or receipt’’ kidnapping of a child for the purpose of slavery, forced labor and exploitation. The legal provisions to address child trafficking are divided in several legislations that are as follows:-
Article 23 of the Indian constitution: - though it does not talk about child trafficking but it clearly prohibits and criminalizes any kind of human trafficking and forced labor.
Indian Penal Code:- section 370 of the IPC says that whosoever by force, fraud, abduction, abuse of power etc… transfers, recruit, transports, harbor a person for the purpose of exploitation shall be liable for the crime of human trafficking.
Sexual trafficking of children: - this provision is not explicitly written in any legislation even though it has been talked about in IPC in section 370A which says that if anybody who transport of involve in sexual exploitation of a minor shall be liable for punishment not less than 5 years and up to 7 years with fines. Also
Challenges of rehabilitation of rescued children:-
Where at one hand the problem the rescuing children exists as there are many children being abducted and carried off without their will and on the very other hand another severe problem exists and that is of rehabilitation of the children who are rescued. The very first problem in this field lies in rescuing them itself as many NGOs works on it they have explained that most of the time these kidnappers or criminals have a very good connection with the police itself and thus it becomes very hard to catch them with the kids themselves as they are already aware of the raids which are going to happen and hide the children at safe spots. Even when these children are rescued the rehabilitation centers have to go through lots of hardship like the children which were enslaved for a very long period of time becomes reluctant to rescues, they are so terrified of the outside world that they don’t trust anyone. Most of the time these children are made addicted to drugs by the criminals themselves so they are reluctant to leave their place and resist or run away during the process of being rescued. Eventually it also becomes difficult to make them leave their lifestyle and adopt a new one during the process of rehabilitation... Many of these children are gravely hurt who are beyond repair either they have lost their limbs or some body parts due to excessive work in hazardous conditions. It becomes very difficult to make them trust the organizations and the rehabilitation centers themselves.
They are denied the right to education from the very beginning and have forgotten about its relevance and it certainly becomes very difficult to make them understand the value of education again. As it has been said that Children are like wet cement whatever falls on them makes an impression so these catastrophic conditions in which they are raised makes a worst case impression on them and it becomes very difficult to make them socialize with the other world. Again sometimes in these rehabilitation centers efforts are made by these evil minded people to escort the children again to those hells with falls identity and it makes the rehabilitation center authorities to be very cautious all the time while dealing with them. And the most important hideous task is to find out about the family background of these unknown children so they can be send to their right place; this requires extensive research and work.
Steps taken by government in recent past:-
Seeing the miserable plight of the children government, both the central and the state and executive bodies have taken several steps to look into the matter and to frame more solid and practical guidelines for the protection of the children. Examples of some of these steps are as follows:-
Khoya- paya platform: - it is a website made by the ministry of Women and child development and the department of electronics and information technology. This website is an official government website and is accessible by all citizens of India. It regularly updates about the children which went missing and which were found. Anyone can upload picture of a child which has been missing, so that people who have seen the kids can inform.
Promotions: - Delhi police have recently framed a new policy in this regard and that is to give out of turn promotions to the police officers who find most missing number of children. The DCP of Delhi has also remarked that the scheme of rewarding the officers has been proved to be helpful.
Special investigation team: - recently Karnataka high court has ordered the state government to constitute a special investigation team to probe child trafficking in the city. Such teams would look into child working at railway stations and streets and try to rehabilitate them.
Ministry of home affairs: - the ministry has published a detailed advisory to all the states, advising to take steps for tabulating missing cases. It recognized trafficking as an organized crime and advises for organized reforms. This gave a well-researched document to all the states.
Zip net network: - through this initiative Delhi police have been able to keep contact with other police of the other states. For a fast and effective system of information transfer such that quick actions can be taken at the right time.
As all these grave incident show that children are being offered a miserable life in contrary to a happy and secure life. The main point here is that these crimes are widespread in our society but still we do not pay much attention to these crimes. This society forgets about the most of the miss happening and when such incident occurs with one of our own or with ourselves only then we get to know the relevance and depth of this issue, only then we are aware of it, only then we are ready to take steps. But the thing lies here is that cry over spilled milk is of no use. This time has arrived where we should be aware and ready to take actions against this evil, whether it concerns us or not. As it has been remarked by Nelson Mandela that ‘’safety and security don’t just happen, they are the result of collective consensus and public investment. We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear’’. With government policies and plans there is still need for better implementation of policies and execution of plans.
Census of India 2001, Age Structure And Marital Status, source:- https://censusindia.gov.in/census_and_you/age_structure_and_marital_status.aspx
National crime records bureau report of 2019, Missing Persons Report , source:- https://ncrb.gov.in/en/missing/missing-persons-report
Indian Penal Code, 1860 https://legislative.gov.in/sites/default/files/A1860-45.pdf
Constitution of India, 1950 https://legislative.gov.in/constitution-of-india
A child goes missing in India every eight minutes, Sushmita Panda https://www.sundayguardianlive.com/news/child-goes-missing-india-every-eight-minutes
About the author:-
The author is a student of university five years law college, university of Rajasthan.
By: - Anupam Singh Sengar