NHRC seeks from Centre the status of technological as well as other initiatives taken to locate and unite missing children with their families (16.05.2018)


New Delhi, 16th May, 2018
The National Human Rights Commission, NHRC has taken suo motu cognizance of a newspaper article raising the issue of large number of missing children across the country; existing legal frame work and gaps and loop holes in the technology to trace and unite the missing children with their families. Appreciating the contents of the article, the Commission has observed that the proper use of technology with zeal can reunite the missing children with their families.

Accordingly, in order to know the present status of the technology being used to trace the missing children and unite them with their families, the Commission has issued notices to the Home Secretary, Union Ministry of Home Affairs and the Secretary, Union Ministry of Women & Child Development. They have been asked to give their comments in the matter along with the status of the initiatives taken including the portals developed by them by specifically mentioning whether the tools like 'Facial Recognition Software' have been added to match the records of the 'missing' and 'found' children.

The Commission is also asked them to inform whether the guidelines on missing children have been circulated and are being followed by the concerned agencies or not. The response is expected within six weeks.

Post Nithari incident, the NHRC had formed a committee of experts in the year 2007 to examine the problem of missing children. Their report underscored that both the Central and the State Governments have to ensure realistic plans of action so as to make protection of children, a reality within a specific time frame. The report also emphasized that it would require massive mobilization of resources, strong political commitment and decentralized planning and management structure, including radical reforms in social services administration for efficient delivery of services.

According to the article, carried on the 16th May, 2018, through strategic interventions, strong legislation and judicious use of technology, the state can bring back smiles to thousands of families, who become victim to the crime of missing children. It is further stated that in a historic judgment, the Apex Court in BBA vs Union of India in 2013, had given directions for mandatory registration of FIR u/s 370 of IPC invoking the doctrine of "presumption of commission of offence" of trafficking in the event of a case of a missing child. The Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for the missing children and the and the Zonal Integrated Police Network (ZIPNET) started in the year 2004 by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India have been referred stating that these initiatives have helped a lot in tracing the missing children.

Reportedly, the Ministry of Women and Child Development, with the help of the National Informatics Centre has developed a national portal "Track Child" which contains data on missing children and also has live data base to track the children kept in various child care institutions. It also provides a networking system amongst all stakeholders and citizens to facilitate tracking of a child in distress. Underlying the significant progress in terms of use of technology to trace the missing children and reunite them with their families, it is mentioned that there is lack of use of advancement in technology and available resources like UID, Aadhaar cards and Face Recognition Software to reunite the recovered children. Shri Jagjit Singh Chhabra has urged that the procedures and systems need to evolve with technology so that gaps can be bridged to successfully repatriate more unidentified traced children.

It is also written that due to absence of Facial Recognition Software on the portal, developed by the Government of India, a large number of recovered children were not getting united with their families. It is further mentioned that a plausible reason for this was lack of coordinated information system. The information is getting updated variously by the police, CWCs, staff of child care institutions with minor differences in the spelling of the child or the place and this prevents matching of the children "found" with those found to be "missing".

As mentioned in the article, in one of the greatest victory in the chapter of missing children, on the 20th April, 2018, a total 2930 missing children recorded in the database were matched with "found" database records, after the Delhi Government ran the facial recognition software as per the directions of the Delhi High Court. As written, there is a need that all child welfare committees, police and staff of child care institutions must be equipped with computers, Internet facilities and an operator to be able to use 'Track Child' and 'Facial Recognition Software' to effectively trace the children and digitalize all documents and information.