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Memories of a road or a tree, social media photos: How Thane Police helped reunite 2,302 missing kids with families

An administrative decision made by the Thane Police in mid-2014, to start a Child Protection Unit (CPU), is now paying dividends as 2,302 children have been reunited with their parents since 2018.

Written by Sagar Rajput | Mumbai |
Updated: January 19, 2021 12:55:06 am
Sometimes, circulating images of missing persons on social media also helped police in reuniting them with their family. (Image by Pixabay/Representational)

The fleeting memories of a banyan tree, vague recollections of the name of a road and the recollection of their parents working in a brick kiln are among the trail of clues that has helped the Thane Police reunite 2,302 missing children with their families since 2018.

An administrative decision made by the Thane Police in mid-2014, to start a Child Protection Unit (CPU), is now paying dividends as 2,302 children have been reunited with their parents since 2018.

“As per the Supreme Court’s guidelines, we register a case of kidnapping after a minor goes missing. It is investigated by police station personnel, but if they fail to locate the child in the next four months, then the case is transferred to the Anti-Human Trafficking Cell of Crime Branch. And for every missing minor’s case which is transferred to AHTC, CPU conducts a parallel probe, which has majorly helped us in reuniting the children with their families,” said a senior IPS officer.

In one case, two siblings, one 10 years old and the other 8, fled from their house in Dahisar in December 2018 after a tiff with their father. They were found in Vashi by the Government Railway Police and sent to a children’s home in Ulhasnagar in January 2019.

As the two were unable to share their address, CPU officials of Thane Police were contacted. While talking to the children, the only information that the police could manage to get from them was that they were natives of a village called Belwa which had a prominent banyan tree. While there are many villages named Belwa in India, the police personnel, while talking to the children, guessed that they might be from Uttar Pradesh.

“By chance, we got to know that a team from Ambernath police station had gone to Belwa to investigate some other crime. I roped them in to help us out,” said Assistant Police Inspector Sheetal Madhne.

Armed with pictures of the two children, the Ambernath police team scoured various hamlets in the region, searching for a banyan tree. Three days later, the team managed to find the children’s uncle, who told the police that the minors used to live in Dahisar with their father, who worked as a driver.

With this information, the police managed to reunite the family in December 2020.

In yet another case, an eight-year-old boy could only provide the name of the road on which his house was located. “These children do not remember the exact address… there are certain keywords they tell us with the help of which we try to trace their parents,” said an officer, adding, “Many a times, the children misguide us by telling us that their parents are no more or they don’t remember anything.”

Accordingly, police looked for a 90 feet road on the internet and learnt that there are two 90 feet roads, in Kalwa and Dharavi. The CPU officials initially looked for his parents in Kalwa, but couldn’t find them. They then checked with Dharavi Police, where a case of kidnapping had been registered on May 8, 2017.

“We then contacted the parents and showed them his pictures. After they identified the boy, he was handed over to them on December 15,” said Madhne.

Similarly, the memory of a brick kiln was a crucial lead given by an eight-year-old girl, who went missing from her home on December 5 last year.

“We contacted the police station at Ambernath, Badlapur, Kulgaon and Titwala, and the location where bricks are made in huge quantities, and came to know that a kidnapping case was registered at Shahapur police station,” said an officer.

The police got in touch with the girl’s parents and she was handed over to them.

Sometimes, circulating images of missing persons on social media also helped police in reuniting them with their family.

On January 4, a 22-year-old mentally ill person, who went missing five years ago, was located in a special children’s home in Dhule and reunited with his father, after a volunteer in the NGO saw his picture and identified him. He was 17 then and had gone missing from his Bhiwandi residence. Subsequently, a case of kidnapping was registered with Narpoli police station.

“He was initially lodged in a children’s home in Thane, but over the years, he was transferred from one children’s home to another, and at last he was found in Dhule,” said Madhne.

The officials said they had initially looked for him at railway stations, bus stops and different children’s homes across Thane, Navi Mumbai and Mumbai, but to no avail. His father would also carry a photo of his son and roam around, inquiring about him.

“We again circulated his picture in the last week of December on different WhatsApp groups, of which several NGO workers, officials from children’s home, police and childline workers are members of. We then got a lead that he is in Solapur, but we could not find him there, so through the numbers obtained from Solapur-based children’s home, we contacted other children’s home in Dhule, when a volunteer there identified him,” said Madhne, “We then contacted his father, who had gone to his native place in Uttar Pradesh, and handed him over.”

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