Tamil Nadu’s missing children: A story of staggering statistics

Shruti Sinha

Chennai, Nov 4

Around 9 girls went missing in Tamil Nadu (TN) each day in 2020, according to the National Crime Records Bureau’s (NCRB) ‘Crime in India’ report.

Girls accounted for 77% (3,545) of the total 4,591 children (below 18 years of age) going missing in Tamil Nadu in 2020, according to NCRB’s data. There were 1,046 cases of boys going missing in the same year.

From previous years, there are still 1,551 missing children yet to be traced. Added to the 2020 data, the total count becomes 6,142 cases of missing children in TN. The state accounts for 4.24% of the 1,08,234 children who went missing in India, a figure which translates to an average of 295 cases every day.

“This number is alarming, especially taking the year in consideration because it means that there were children that went missing from the streets even when everything was shut during the pandemic,” says Ms K Priya, Southern Region Program Controller, Child Rights and You (CRY).

‘Missing Children’: Definition and Reasons

The Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India has defined a missing child as “a person below eighteen years of age, whose whereabouts are not known to the parents, legal guardians and any other persons who may be legally entrusted with the custody of the child, whatever may be the circumstances/causes of disappearance”.

The reasons behind these disappearances are uncountable: kidnapping, abduction, harassment, trafficking are the four reasons that dwarf all others.

“It’s a continuous cycle of destitution leading to vulnerabilities amongst children, further endangering their avenues of recreation, which then ends in children missing from homes and becoming a statistic,” says S Kappan, Researcher and Forum Advisor, Arunodaya Center for Street and Working Children, Chennai.

For trans children:

While the breakup of the cases was 1,046 boys and 3,545 girls; no trans children were reported missing in TN in 2020 (a separate category for trans children was included only in 2018), unlike Kerala where 4 trans children were reported missing in the same year. For a state to report 0 cases, even after considering the trans rights awareness that TN possesses, does not comply with the NCRB data.

When one actually begins to think about the generalization, it is beyond reason to put a four-year-old toddler and a seventeen-year-old teenager, even within the similar circumstances of their disappearance, in the same category. The NCRB, however, has no backing for this categorisation- since the ‘victims of these offenses were children’.

What happens after?

There isn’t a question that the cases piling up as per NCRB data, year after year is a chronic problem. CRY’s analysis of the NCRB data for 2020 concludes that, “in the past one decade (2010-2020), there’s been a precipitous increase of 381% in crimes against children”.

However, Kidnapping still remains, an offense with least convictions.
For over 519 cases of kidnapping that were reported in 2020, the rate of conviction was only 6%, which implies that only around 35 cases had a court sentence, i.e. a declaration of punishment as an outcome of a criminal trial. “It’s been 8 years to the Supreme Court mandate that says that a First Information Report (FIR) of Kidnapping is to be registered by the police for a ‘missing child’ complaint, but there are more case dismissals than definite kidnapping FIRs; in some cases, cases are even pulled out of court because the accused is a distant family relative” says Swekriti Singh, Volunteer, TN State Commission for Protection of Child Rights.

Initiatives that help in the tracing:

‘TrackChild’, a TN state-run portal has helped to track missing and vulnerable children; and also rehabilitate children who are found, since its inception in 2013. The portal provides figures on the number of children who are currently missing, and as on November 5, the figure is 15,421. In eight years they have managed to find over 12,223 children.

“The information of the missing children that gets reported is to be entered and updated at the police stations. Then the investigation begins and the ultimate goal of the TrackChild project then, is to facilitate the matching of ‘missing’ children being reported at police stations with the ‘found’ children” says Mrs. R Gayathri, Nodal Officer, Track Child for TN state.

What is not listed besides the missing and recovered children section on the portal, is the difference between these two figures– which makes the children who still remain ‘untraced’ in the state. These names are displayed on the portal, with their details and thumb-sized photographs changing every four seconds, at times even without the name of a guardian.

The time window of tracking missing children is barely two days because after that, the chances of tracing them becomes abysmally low and other facets of crimes against children such as child trafficking and exploitation also come in.

“Though initiatives like TrackChild do help, there is a need to build a stronger collaboration between the state police that investigates missing children cases and the agencies that assist them, it isn’t just about them going missing but also crossing borders,” says Vikas Puthran, Head of Resources and Communications, Childline India Foundation, Chennai, TN.

Powered by the sun: Chennai’s MGR Central station leads the way

Chennai, Nov 5: One month after Chennai Central Rly stn went solar, officials say SR, only in October has their electricity savings amount to around Rs. 8L.

Dr. M.G Ramachandran Central railway station in Chennai is meeting its daytime energy requirements through the 1.5 Mw solar power project, becoming the first ‘energy neutral’ railway station in the country.

Currently over 13 railway stations Southern Railways, including Central station, Guindy and Mambalam have solar power panels installed on the rooftops and generating power.

According to L. Jagadeesan, Senior Section Engineer, Electrical and Power Division, the solar power project was commissioned in 2017 with 100kW solar panels on a trial basis. “In December 2018 additional 100kW solar panels were added to the station. At the moment the solar capacity is at 1.5MW.”

“This shift to solar energy has brought the expenses of the southern railways down by over Rs 8,33,000 lakhs per month, for October, the first month of solar-energy generation. The savings which are expected to be over 1.2 crore rupees per annum in the coming year,” he added.

Jagadeesan says that since solar energy can only be produced from morning to evening, nighttime usage at the station relies on traditional coal fuelled electricity supplied from TANGEDCO, the main distribution licensee in Chennai.

He explained, “We first draw power from the grid to enable the solar panels. The panels generate DC voltage, which the inverters installed throughout the stations convert into AC voltage. These digital inverters display the amount of daily and monthly electricity produced and consumed at the station.”

Railway officials say, there are two companies, tendered with the Central station power requirements. AZURE solar solutions, a renewable power producer company, covers an area of over 21,676 sq. m at the Central station and is generating over 2000 KWp units at the cost of 3.64 rs/unit. of solar energy on an average. Central Electronics Limited (CEL), covers over 1600 sq. m of the station at the cost of Rs 8.1 Kwp units.Together, these two companies are looking over the station’s requirement of energy.

The generation and cost effectiveness of power:

Before the installation of solar voltaic cells (SVCs) in 2017, the central station would consume over 900 Kwp units (kilowatt ‘peak’) units on an average weekday at the station. However, the introduction of solar energy has proven beneficial in different ways.

“There’s been a remarkable difference in the past one month, after the SVCs were installed, the average solar power generation has been 17,000 Kwp units on a weekly basis, which fulfills all our daytime power needs, including electrical appliances at our offices,” says P. Murugan, Station Manager (Commercial), MGR station.

The initiative and the maintenance:

Considering India as the third-largest energy consumer in the world, the MGR railway station’s a major contribution to the Government of India’s ‘Net Zero’ Carbon Emission Railway network 2030 initiative. The cost cutting that is for the government is going to have a long term impact due to minimal wastage during consumption and usage.

“Chennai’s Central station is an example of railways being powered by clean energy solutions and bringing the net energy consumption to zero, along with becoming self-sufficient with the conversion of the energy,” says L Jagdeeshan.

Although this initiative is new, the station management did not have to hire any new staff for the maintenance of the solar panels. “AZURE sends in their own staff periodically to check if the panels need to be changed or cleaned, otherwise if there are any leakages that need to be filled in,” says Ramkumar, Chief Engineer, Electrical Department, SR, Chennai Division.

Aravind Kannan, marketing head at ‘Solarify’, a Bangalore based solar power company says, “Conventionally, solar energy can
be conserved in Lithium-ion batteries. However, for an area like Chennai Central, using conventional batteries is expensive at that scale.”

Therefore, exporting the excess energy back to the state grid is the best option. The electricity produced at the station runs on a net metering system. Kannan explains this with an example. “If in a monthly billing cycle, 1000 units of solar power can be generated at the station, wherein 500 units are consumed during live usage, then the remaining 500 units are exported back to the grid.

If the station pulls additional 1000 units from the grid for consumption at night or on an overcast day, it will pay for the net 500 units of additional electricity required for consumption to the Distribution Licensee.” According to him, the grids act like a virtual battery. Kannan alluded to political reasons why there isn’t a separate storage mechanism
for excess solar power at Chennai Central.

If there are more non-conventional options of energy generation like solar then it will decrease the demand for traditional energy affecting the business of big players like TANGEDCO.