South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

Published in “The Times of India” on July 24 ::

PANAJI: Around 69 children who went missing or were abducted in Goa over the past few years since 2011 are yet to be found. This has been stated in a report submitted to the Goa state human rights commission (GSHRC) by the superintendent of police (vigilance).

Activists said it’s a shame that the police have failed to trace the children and alleged that police are not doing enough to find them.

Police, on the other hand, claimed that efforts are still on to trace the missing children.

While the number of missing children below the age of 15 years is around 25, some were just 18 months old when they went missing.

Most of the children are migrants, though a few are from local families.

Slamming the government, activists said that recommendations of the national human rights commission (NHRC) on missing children have not been followed.

Goa state commission for protection of child rights chairperson Samira Kazi said that as per the NHRC recommendations, Goa should have had an anti-human trafficking unit with the deputy inspector general of police (DIG) as nodal officer. “We have forwarded the recommendations to the government and we will remind the authorities again,” Kazi said, expressing her concern over the figures.

“It’s a shame that so many missing or abducted children have not been traced,” activist lawyer Satish Sonak, who has been pursuing the matter, said.

NGO ARZ member Arun Pandey said this is happening because there is no system in place. ARZ has been working for the welfare of women and children and pursued with GSHRC, the case of a four-year-old boy kidnapped from Baina-Vasco, in 2011.

Pandey said that besides the NHRC recommendations, the Supreme Court guidelines have also not been implemented in Goa and a nodal officer required to coordinate with police agencies in other states has also not been appointed.

Social activist Reggie Gomes said police are unable to meet the demand of following up on cases and the cases of missing children are among the last on their priority list. “I have rarely heard of a case of a missing child from a well-to-do family in Goa. The cases of missing children mostly come from the lower strata of society and are often children of migrants. In Goa, people have an attitude that migrant children are not our problem. I feel that the police are overburdened and need to take help from NGOs, who will be more than willing to volunteer. We will be able to make progress in these cases in this manner,” Gomes said.

Sonak said the state has failed to comply with the guidelines and added that the figures are an eye opener for the elected representatives to act.

Pandey said police should investigate whether a gang is involved as the number of missing children appears big. He accused the police of not taking the cases of missing children seriously as most of them are of children of non-Goan parents from the lower economic strata.

In their report to GSHRC, the district SPs explained action taken to find missing children. This includes wireless messages flashed to all police stations and relatives/neighbours of the missing persons contacted by the investigating officers.