Karnataka’s shame: missing & untraced

missing

It is distressing that a large number of people, including children, have gone missing in Karnataka, with a significant number remaining untraced. According to a recent Karnataka State Police report, of those who went missing from their homes over the past four years, some 6,188 women, 385 girls and 380 boys remain untraced. It points to two important issues that merit attention, one being the need to improve the skills of police in tracing missing persons. Police say that tracing the missing is an important priority for the force. But only about half the number of people who go missing are traced and reunited with their families. A significant number remain untraced, and this is untenable. Police should act swiftly and be more proactive in tracing the missing. Often, when parents report their children missing, police try to assuage their fears. They are told to be patient as children often return home. However, valuable time is lost by deferring action on such complaints. Instead, they should immediately publicise the names, photographs and other details of missing people, and they should draw on technology and social media to spread such information to the public.

Police statistics indicate that 40% of those who go missing leave their home voluntarily. They run away after a domestic feud, whether due to a love affair, a forced marriage, marital trouble, performance at school or financial issues. Often, people are reluctant to report a missing person as they do not want their neighbours to know about upheavals in the family. Interestingly, people, especially children, are less likely to run away from a joint family situation than a nuclear family. In a joint family, a distressed child is able to turn to an aunt, a cousin or a grandparent for immediate emotional support if her relationship with a parent or a sibling is troubled. In a nuclear family, however, a child or a woman suffering emotional or physical abuse has no one to turn to in a time of trouble, and they may seek to escape the situation by running away. With India’s joint family system breaking down, the number of child runaways is growing.

It is particularly difficult to trace and rescue people who have been trafficked. Human trafficking, whether for sexual exploitation or labour, is a highly lucrative trade and thrives because it enjoys the support of rogue police personnel and politicians. Breaking this nexus between traffickers, brothels, police and politicians will go a long way in tracing missing persons and reuniting them with their families. But who do we turn to, in this case of the fence eating the crop, to break that nexus? 

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Karnataka’s shame: missing & untraced

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