Thousands of Indian children missing, says report

File photo of parents of missing children at a rally in Delhi
Image caption Many parents never see their children again

Nearly 11 children go missing in India every hour and at least four of them are never found, according to a study by a child rights organisation.

The report by Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) covers 392 of India's 640 districts and is the first such comprehensive study on the subject.

The data was compiled over two years from January 2008 to January 2010.

The report says most of the missing children end up as labour, in brothels or in other exploitative situations.

Campaigners say most of the missing children are from poor families and the biggest reason why many remain untraced is because of the apathy of the police and law enforcement agencies.

The report, entitled Missing Children in India - a Pioneering study, was released in the capital, Delhi, on Thursday.

It is based on data from the government-controlled National Crime Record Bureau, the National Human Rights Commission, various child rights groups and information obtained under the Right to Information Act.

The report says 117,480 children went missing between January 2008 and January 2010 in 392 districts in 20 states and four federally-governed territories.

Based on the findings, the group estimates that the total number of children who go missing every year in India could be as high as 96,000.

Campaigners say even that number is a gross under-estimate because many cases go unreported.

"The majority of the missing children are not even being acknowledged, let alone registered and investigated by the police and enforcement agencies," says BBA founder Kailash Satyarthi.

Campaigners say parents of missing children often have to "run from pillar to post" to get their cases registered or investigated.

They cite the example of nearly two dozen childen who were killed in Nithari in the wealthy Delhi suburb of Noida, in 2006.

Furious relatives said their repeated complaints to police to find their missing children were ignored.

Campaigners say children are often abducted for ransom, before being made to beg or work as bonded labour. Many are sexually exploited. Sometimes, they are even used as child soldiers or combatants in armed conflicts.

Maharashtra and West Bengal are among states with the highest numbers of missing children, the report says.

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