One year after the Mumbai Police launched an ambitious plan to systematically probe complaints regarding missing minors, especially when cases are related to human trafficking, the plan appears to have yielded no results.
On January 24, 2015, citing figures of missing minors, then joint commissioner of police (crime) Sadanand Date issued an order to speed up efforts to trace such children by setting up additional Anti Human Trafficking Units (AHTU) in the city.
In addition to the existing Crime Branch’s Social Service Branch (SSB), which looks into trafficking crimes in Mumbai, Date set up two more units at Crime Branch Unit 1 and Unit 9 and further created 13 AHTUs in each zone to further probe cases of missing minors transferred to them from local police stations. While the AHTUs were to approach the SSB or other arms of the Crime Branch if a case appeared related to human trafficking, the Crime Branch actually received no such referrals over the past year.
“The order was that if local police cannot trace a missing minor in four months, that particular case will get transferred to the zonal level AHTU, who would then screen the case and if the details indicate immoral trafficking, it would go to SSB. If it was extortion, the case will get transferred to other units of the Crime Branch. No such cases have been transferred to the crime branch through this structure in the past year,” said a senior police officer.
Pravin Kumar Patil, deputy commissioner of police (enforcement), said that the Crime Branch has now sought a report from the zonal level AHTU and will scan undetected cases that were not transferred to them.
“A few zones have replied so far, we are awaiting the responses from the rest. We will analyse the data. Finding these minor is a priority,” Patil added.
When contacted, Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) Atulchandra Kulkarni said he was aware of his predecessor’s order and the status of the system. He, however, said he was not aware of the statistics if any cases had been transferred through the newly formed structure and said he would look into the reasons.
The police claim they are currently looking for more than 3,000 children reported missing in the last eleven years, including 443 who went missing last year.
A senior officer said the reason for the cases not being referred to the Crime Branch is simply a lack of coordination and communication between the local police station where the missing complaint is filed, its respective zonal AHTU units and then the concerned Crime Branch units.
“There is a system but there are too many departments to coordinate. Missing minors are being detected but they are cases from the past couple of years. Not many are recent cases,” admitted a senior officer.
Interestingly, the SSB last year recorded the highest number of human trafficking cases in the last four years, at 102, and rescued 440 women. Data shows that in 2014, the SSB rescued 308 victims while the number of women rescued in 2013 stood at 159. In 2012 there were 79 cases under the Prevention of Immoral Trafficking Act (PITA). Three years later, the cases have risen to 102.
“In 2015, there were 23 minor victims that SSB rescued and in 2014 there were only 9. There are several missing minors across the city there might be more related to trafficking, however, we are short staffed to probe further,” claimed a senior officer.