TIMES OF INDIA
KOLKATA: A 16-year-old girl goes out of home to visit her aunt and goes missing on May 25, 2010 in Joynagar’s Chandaneswar. Her father Gobindo, exasperated at police inaction, decides to seek help of an NGO. “It is my daughter I want back,” Gobindo says. While police probe drew a blank, Gobindo traced a possible suspect and his cell-number. Giving it to the police elicited no response. Just five days back, Joynagar police wrote to the cell-phone service provider seeking call details and tower location. The reason isn’t hard to gauge – police had to attend a National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) hearing in Kolkata on Friday morning.
The NCPCR hearing at Town Hall on Friday was aimed to identify what ails South 24-Paraganas police while probing cases of child trafficking. Initially, 50 such cases from the district were reported to NCPCR. A fortnight later 15 cases were “solved” after the Rights body shot off a missive seeking detailed report. Among the remaining 35, NCPCR decided to hold a “public hearing” for 18 cases where no headway was made in spite of available evidence. And it was during this hearing that the district police drew came in for flak. The “public hearing” wasn’t only about lambasting police, it also spotted a few lacunas on why some three districts in Bengal – Malda and Murshidabad being others – are slowly becoming the country’s biggest child trafficking source.
Dr Shantha Sinha, NCPCR chairperson, said, “There are far too many gaps observed. On a case-to-case basis we gave directions to take action. There has to be a far greater seriousness involving cases against children. This is completely lacking.” Sinha said, “There is a lack of coordination among the various state departments particularly the juvenile justice board, child welfare committee, state welfare department and police. Anti-trafficking cells should be more active. We hope that since a new government has taken charge, they will review and monitor these cases with due seriousness and work with states like Gujarat, Maharashtra and Rajasthan where most of these children are being trafficked.” There are far too many gaps.”
Social Welfare Department principal secretary Tuktuk Kumar , who has recently taken charge, said, “This effort by the NCPCR will go a long way to identify the problems and then redress those.” ASP (Headquarters), South 24-Paraganas, Nupur Prasad, whose colleagues came in for much faced criticism by the NCPCR jury, also mentioned a few genuine problems. dogging investigation to the jury. Prime among them was a complete lack of coordination between NGOs and police. In some cases, proper facts were not represented to the jury even drawing a remark from retired justice Samaresh Banerjea that in some cases even parents could be involved (in selling of their children). Joynagar police station officer-in-charge Ram Mondal referred to a specific case where police had arrested the accused based on the complaint but wasn’t informed that the victim had been rescued by an NGO and handed back to her parents. In a Diamond Harbour case, it was mentioned to a jury that a teenage girl was missing in Kamarpole, Sarisha on May 5, this year. An FIR was lodged and the accused Bakkar Molla was also arrested. The victim’s family, however, gave three petitions to police asking them to drop the case claiming their child was “happily married” in New Delhi. Once police did so, they complained to the NCPCR saying their child is still missing. But then barring these two few cases, Mondal’s usual refrain in the other cases lodgedin Joynagar, was “the case is under investigation and a report has been sent to CID’s Missing Person Bureau.” But he chose not to reply to questions on why no follow-up was done with the CID., which infact has an anti-child trafficking cell.
An NGO member s as well. It drew remarks like, “Why are you so insensitive? Would you have the done if it were your own child?” from the jury.
Rishi Kant member of an NGO Shakti Vahini, said, “Police are not treating these cases seriously.” In one case (among the 18), a few FIR mentions prostitution when the complaint only says the girl has gone missing. How can the police jump to such conclusions without even investigating? Their opinion is already made.” Satyagopal Dey, AGM CRY, said, “The state has to show more intent. There are ample provisions laid down which are yet to be implemented here. Mere criticism of police isn’t the solution, the infrastructure and manpower issues need to be addressed first.” Dey said, “Instead of having dedicated officers, if every second officer in a police station is appointed a child welfare office – something which even the officer isn’t aware of – there is little hope,” he said.