More than 19,000 children have been lost from India's capital alone since 2009, pointing to a widespread problem with human trafficking -- though the government says most of the missing kids run away from home to escape "cruel parents."
As I reported for GlobalPost in 2009, the disappearance of children is hardly a new phenomenon in India. But the police are either incapable or unwilling to do much about it, often parroting the government's recent claim that the bulk of the missing are runaways, and their parents do not report it to the police when they return. At that time, according to police data, about 13,000 children have been reported missing over the past three years.
Apparently, the problem has only gotten worse.
Over 19,000 children went missing in the capital since 2009, of whom 3,305 remain untraced: 1,731 girls and 1,574 boys, the Union home ministry has told Parliament, the UK's Daily Mail newspaper reported.
But even though child labor remains rampant throughout the country, the home ministry has listed human trafficking last out of 11 reasons that children disappear, the newspaper said.
Escaping cruel parents was the number one reason cited for children going missing, but the home ministry also listed pressure to do well in studies and elopement among the factors responsible for the disappearance of children in Delhi, the paper said.
Elopement was also cited as one of the primary reasons when I did my reporting -- though anti-child labor activists scoffed that many of the missing kids were younger than 12 years old. At the same time, videographer Mark Scheffler and I had strong suspicions that the main character in our video story on the subject -- distraught that her daughter had been "stolen" -- probably knew that her husband had sold the girl to traffickers.