NEW DELHI: Nine-year-old Diwakar Singh is a native of Ramgarh district in Jharkhand. He left home, this May, after he was beaten up by his parents, and took a train to Howrah with a friend. Recently, he was recently rescued by the Jharkhand Police and reunited with his parents.
Nineteen thousand boys and girls rescued by a special initiative of the Union home ministry have similar stories: From being pushed into prostitution and bonded labor to ill-treatment by parents. Codenamed ‘Operation Smile,’ the drive pioneered by home minister Rajnath Singh has seen different state police and women and child departments step up efforts to rescue missing children, with Haryana and Maharashtra taking the lead.
MHA plans a one-day national seminar on human trafficking on October 7. “During the seminar, we plan to hold a special session on child trafficking,” said an official. Officials also say that investigations into several cases of missing children have also brought the roles of shelter homes under scanner and they might propose an amendment in law that governs shelter homes.
“In many cases, the missing children were traced to shelter homes and their interview revealed that the shelter homes do not make an effort to reunite children with parents to lure of grants given by the government,” the official said. A case in point is of 11-year-old Arjun Kumar, a native of Manesar in Haryana who was traced to a shelter home in Delhi where he was staying for 6 months. “Despite giving details of his where-about, the authorities never made an effort to inform his parents,” said an official involved in the operation.
Police also reported that the number of rescued boys was higher than girls, who are mostly pushed into prostitution. However, the CID department of Maharashtra rescued a girl who was being trafficked for the purpose of prostitution.
Home Ministry has also asked the state governments to sensitise and train police officers at various ranks about issued related to missing children, POSCO Act, Juvenile Justice Act and Protection of Child Rights Acts and then sent to various parts of the country including Delhi, Jaipur, Haridwar, Gurgaon, Mumbai and Kolkata to recover missing children.
The Centre also plans to reward individual officers based on their performance but wants details of identified children to be published in print and electronic media so that the parents, relatives and concerned police get the information about the children.
(Names of all children have been changed to protect their identity)