Mama I am back – tale of a missing child
“Hello Inspector Bhaskar Chattopadhayay”.
“Sahib, I am constable Shouvik Mukherjee from Rahim Ganj police station”.
“What can I can do for you,” inspector Chattopadhayay replied.
“Sahibji, is there a missing report of girl named Moushmi registered with your police station?” asked Mukherjee.
“Hey”, badha babu, shouted Inspector Chattopadhayay. “Is any Moushmi missing from our area?”
“Ji sir,” pat came the reply, from an obscure corner in the police station.
“Yes” Inspector Chattopadhayay told Mukherjee and in the same refrain asked “how do you know that the missing report was registered with us?”
“Sahibji, information about Moushmi is uploaded on new TrackChild portal. Please inform her parents,” Mukherjee said.
“Gazab,” Chattopadhayay mumbled and shouted: “Tell her parents, website sa ladki milli hai bhai”
A month before Moushmi had gone missing from Mushirabad in 2008, TrackChild – a special web portal to track missing children – was launched by the government of India as a pilot in West Bengal.
The pilot was initiated after the Central government found out that many children reported missing by parents land in orphanages and due to lack of convergence among police station they remain untraced and cannot be restored back to parents. Around 65,000 of 2.05 lakh children reported missing, as per the government data, were never traced between 2009 and 2011.
Moushmi was lucky.
As soon as the orphanage owner Banda Babu came to Rahim Ganj police station with the three-year old girl he found near a railway station, Mukherjee was eager to help.
Mukherjee asked the girl her name that of her parents and from where she was. She remained dumb. He took out a toffee from his pocket to become friendly. She took it and grabbed it in her palm but still remained mute even as a woman police officer gave her motherly comfort by putting Moushmi in her lap. The girl became more receptive and said, “Janu na (don’t know)”.
Banda Babu and police personnel looked worried as they were not getting the clue about the girl’s parents.
“Banda Babu take the girl to your orphanage. If we get some information about her parents, we will call you,” the woman officer said. Banda Babu held the girl’s hand and started walking out of the police station.
“Stop,” shouted Mukherjee.
Banda Babu and the girl looked back zapped.
“We can still find her parents,” Mukherjee said.
“How” grey haired Banda Babu asked.
“With the help of ChildTrack,” he replied and rushed into a poorly lit room and switched on the lone desktop computer there on a half broken table. It took few minutes to start.
Mukherjee pulled a chair, cleaned it with his elbow and furiously started typing on the keyboard. “31 girls have been reported missing in the last month. Bring her here,” he instructed Banda Babu, who had followed him into the room.
“Yes,” he said, thumping the table. “This girl’s missing report is lodged in Mushirabad’s police station. I will call them immediately”.
A day later inconsolable Moushmi’s parents came to Rahim Ganj and found Moushmi in the orphanage gleefully playing with other children. They grabbed her and promised never to allow her to play alone.
“Mama,” was the only word Moushmi was able to utter seeing her mom.
(All names in the story are fiction except that TrackChild has been launched in West Bengal and around 2,400 children has been tracked with the help of the portal)
Spread of TrackChild across India can help in restoring millions of missing children back to their parents faster and reduce their suffering.
The Justice Verma committee has testimonies of children recording trauma and agony beyond one’s realisation and shows that trafficking of children is a vibrant trade in India towards which the government authorities have turned a blind eye. But, technology with police sensitisation is a way forward and can provide answer to many questions regarding missing children.
HOPE VERMA PANEL STIRS THE SLEEPING GOVERNMENT INTO ACTION!