Social welfare secretary Rajiv Arun Ekka (centre) with CID inspector general Sampat Meena (second from left) at the launch of the helpline in Ranchi on Wednesday. Picture by Hardeep Singh
One missed call is enough to save a missing child.
With such a thought in mind, the state social welfare, women and child development department, in association with Save the Children, an NGO, launched a helpline for taking down complaints about missing children on Wednesday.
Sampat Meena, inspector-general of CID, unveiled the number at a Ranchi hotel.
Anyone having knowledge about a missing child can give a missed call to 1800-200-23-25. Volunteers manning the helpline will call back to take down the details after which necessary actions would follow.
Explaining the reason behind launching the helpline, Biswarup Banerjee, national coordinator, missing children project, Save the Children, said: “There is already a site — trackthemissingchild.gov.in — where anyone can go to citizens’ corner and file information about a missing child. But the helpline has been introduced in Jharkhand, as Internet accessibility in rural areas is poor while mobile connectivity is considerably good.”
He added that after lodging of complaints at the helpline, they would log into trackthemissingchild.gov.in and feed the information besides informing police.
Later, speaking on the sidelines, Banerjee said: “Save the Children will initially bear the cost of running the helpline for a year. Hopefully, the government will then take over.”
Addressing the audience, Meena said the issue was very sensitive. “Awareness needs to be built in rural areas. Police can also play a participatory role and act as a nodal agency for tracking down such children,” she said.
Rattling off figures, the inspector-general (CID) informed that around 3,000 children went missing from Jharkhand in the past decade. In 2013 alone, 270 boys and 283 girls went traceless.
“This helpline is a stopgap arrangement that can help us keep a tab on missing children cases using the existing infrastructure. But an effective tracking mechanism must be developed soon to tackle the problem,” she added.
But Banerjee reminded all that many more cases might have gone unreported. “About 16,000 children go missing in the country every year.”
Social welfare secretary Rajiv Arun Ekka, who was also present at the event, did not deliver any lecture, but recited a poem that urged one and all to help the helpless, poor children.
Ranjan Kumari, member of State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, informed that though NGOs and panchayat representatives were trying to generate awareness, many did not know what to do when children go missing.