By Akshaya Kumar Sahoo
Bhubaneswar, July 26, 2019: Odisha is fast turning out to be one of the most unsafe places for minor girls and boys. As many as 602 children, including 502 girls, have gone missing in the first six months of the current year.
The state government told the ongoing session of the Odisha Assembly among the 502 girl children who went missing during January-March this year, the police could trace only 79. The trace-out rate in the state stood at a measly 15 percent.
Similarly, the State Crime Records Bureau (SCRB) says the number of adult women gone missing in the same period in the state stood at around 1,450, with a trace-out rate of below 20 percent.
Significantly, the apex court in its judgement has directed the state police to immediately register a missing child/person case under the Indian Penal Code trafficking provisions. Senior advocates are of the view that as Odisha police failed to trace out the majority of girl child/women for years, such missing reports can be taken as trafficking cases.
Odisha is the only state in the eastern India and its immediate neighborhood that had posted a poor tracing-out rate of the women/girl child.
According to the federal women and child development ministry report, the tracing-out rate of children in West Bengal in 2018-2019 stood at 95 percent, Andhra Pradesh had a rate of 52 percent and Chhattisgarh 86 percent.
Only Odisha and Jharkhand had a poor retrieval rate of 14 percent and 12 percent respectively. Though Jharkhand has a poorer tracing-out rate than Odisha, the fact is missing children load in Odisha is now numbered at a massive 10,258 vis-a-vis 864 in Jharkhand.
Odisha is currently saddled with 5,703 untraced girl child vis-a-vis 763 in Jharkhand. The girl children have been missing since 2010. Ditto is the case in tracing-out rate of adult women. Odisha and Jharkhand again fared the poorest. The rates were below 20 percent. In contrast, the retrieval rate of women/girl child nationally stood at over 50 percent.
However, here too the missing women load in Odisha is nearly double of that of Jharkhand. Odisha is now saddled with a load of over 8,605 untraced women against that of around 925 in Jharkhand. The missing reports of many such untraced women were filed in 2008.
Analysis of SCRB data district-wise suggests that missing girl children/women burden was borne by 8-10 districts. And around 13 districts in the state bear the burden of the missing boys.
Keonjhar registers maximum cases of girl child missing, whereas Sundergarh records highest missing women cases. In case of missing boys, Sambalpur leads the pack followed by Keonjhar, Jharsuguda, Bhadrak and Angul.
As per a Child Welfare Committee study, the lackadaisical functioning of juvenile unit of state police is responsible for increased trafficking of females from the state.
Noted women and child rights activists Rutuparna Mohanty said most trafficked girl children belonged to poor family backgrounds and hailed from interior pockets.
“Poverty and social insecurity are the key factors driving the girl child trafficking. In poverty-stricken pockets of Dhenkanal, Sundargarh, Gajapati, Rayagada and Kalahandi, traffickers lure the girls to provide them jobs in Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Goa and Andhra Pradesh.
Poor and helpless women whose husbands are alcoholic and do not pay attention to family upbringing, often fall to the designs of the traffickers who promise to get their daughters married off to well-off people outside the state. Very often, these girls end up in brothels after being sold by the traffickers at not less than Rs 2 lakh,” added Mohanty.
She regretted that the police administration was not showing sensitivity to address the trafficking issue.