In a month of fear and joy over the disappearance and rescue of 3-year-old Jahnvi in Delhi, there is some heart-warming news from bordering Ghaziabad. The district police here have set an example in rescuing missing children through an operation called Smile.
They have enlisted the services of nearly 200 personnel in a month-long drive beginning September 24 and so far, rescued 107 children, including 48 who were reunited with their families. The success of operation Smile has been such that the Uttar Pradesh Director General of Police has told police departments of all districts to follow the example from October 8.
A senior police officer in Ghaziabad said the idea came after another operation titled Masoom, targeting victims of crime labour, which was launched on September 14.
“In a single day, 51 children were found working in inhumane conditions at restaurants, at fruit vendors and tea stalls. On that day, we decided to widen the ambit of the operation to all missing children,” Dharmender Yadav, Senior Superintendent of Police, Ghaziabad, said.
In two weeks, 98 boys and nine girls were rescued by the Ghaziabad police from 32 districts spanning four North Indian states and 48 of these children have now been reunited with their families. Of the 127 documented missing children from Ghaziabad, 25 have been found while 17 others were not even reported as missing.
Some children had gone missing for just over eight days One child, found at a shelter home in Haridwar, had been missing for over 14 years. She had disappeared from outside her home in Fatehpur Sikri when she was five years old.
The search was executed along a well-planned strategy. Rannvijay Singh, Deputy Superintendent of Police, and the officer in charge of the operation, said that 38 teams, comprising five officers each were sent to various districts across the country. “In each team, there is one sub-inspector and four constables. Two of them have been instructed to be in civil uniforms to engage with children and ask them about their families. They spend seven to 10 days in one place, establishing contact with the children,” Singh said.
“There are three reasons why these children go missing: some ran away after domestic abuse, some went missing in large congregations and a few were lured away for the purposes of begging or ragpicking,” he said.
One such instance is of 14-year-old Mohit, who went missing from outside his Vijaynagar residence in Ghaziabad five years ago.
“He told us that he was lured away by a sadhu who came to the area, and whisked him away with one other boy. The other one returned in two days but Mohit never did. He was continued…