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Child-tracing portal hit by poor infrastructure in Northeast

By The Assam Tribune

Guwahati, Oct 13 (IANS): Lack of computers in many police stations and poor internet connectivity have stopped police in many northeastern states from uploading data in TrackChild, a national portal aimed at searching missing children, say officials.

Representatives of state governments in the region raised the issue during a consultation on TrackChild, organized by the union women and child development ministry under its Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS).

"Children going missing and trafficking is a very serious issue in Assam and rest of the northeast but our police stations have not been able to make proper use of the portal yet," said Assam Social Welfare Secretary H.K. Sarma.

"One of the reasons could be that many police stations don't have a proper computer system in place. Even if they have one, it is used in the daily activities of fighting militants and criminal activities. If the ministry can financially support our police stations to buy computer sets and put in place a proper system, things will move for the better," he said.

Launched by the ministry in January 2012, Track Child was aimed to offer a common digital online platform to put up details including photographs of missing children and assist police, NGOs and other child care institutions across the country to track them.

It was designed and developed adhering to the guidelines provided in the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 and Model Rules 2007 and the provisions laid down in the ICPS.

One of the tasks entrusted under ICPS to the state governments is the setting up a system to facilitate data entry and matching of missing and found children, and also enable follow up of the progress of children who are beneficiaries of the scheme. The portal also ensures proper monitoring and welfare of the children under the scheme.

"Poor internet connectivity in the region is also another problem for police and officials concerned in using TrackChild and this also hampers the investigation process," said Sarma.

"Records of northeastern states in tracking the missing children is bad so far. Data of missing children are uploaded in TrackChild only at the CID headquarters in Guwahati, instead of police stations in the districts," he said.

Sarma said about 9,500 children went missing from Assam alone between 2007 and June 2014 of which only 3,840 have been recovered from different places in the country either by police or NGOs working for children.

The northeastern region has however have lagged with only 190 of about 850 police stations in its eight states - Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Mizoram, Tripura and Sikkim - putting up data of only 1,427 missing children, since the portal's launch.

Manipur, where children often goes missing or trafficked out of the region is even yet to start the project in the state.

"Infrastructure (computer and internet) is still a problem but we a re trying to start it soon," said an official of Manipur social welfare department.

Many children belonging to poor families in Assam and Manipur have been rescued from children home in south Indian states such as Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala in the past.

They are normally taken out with the promise of good education and care but were many times found living in uncongenial atmosphere. Many children even faced physical, sexual and emotional harassment.

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