It is one of the least talked about problems in India, and also one of the gravest. Every year thousands of children go missing in India, most of them are from the economic and social fringes of the society. The sections most vulnerable to such incidents are the migrant workers and slum dwellers. According to the Ministry of Women and Child development around 2, 42,398 children went missing between 2012 to 2017.
In an effort to curb such incidents activist Bhuwan Ribhu from “Bachpan Bachao Andolan” has been working on a facial recognition-based software for the last two years, but despite several attempts, he could not manage to convince any state to run the software as a pilot project. In the end, on April 5th, 2018 an intervention by Delhi High Court helped the Delhi Police to test their version of the software.
The software that Ribhu and his associates have created works on a facial recognition system which goes through data, looking for a match. Thus, when the New Delhi police ran the software with the data available on the government website, which has all the information about all reported missing children and the children currently lodged at various caring institutions, it worked like magic.
In a span of just four days the software recognized and matched around 2,930 children out of some 60,000 missing children and comparing them with 45,000 unidentified orphans in care institutions in Delhi. It took Delhi police just five days to reunite those 2,930 children with their families. This is an extraordinary feat considering the families had already lost all hope of getting their children back. Ribhu explained to The Better India why the software worked so well and with efficiency –
“India currently has almost 2 lakh missing children and about 90,000 lodged in various child care institutions. It is almost impossible for anyone to manually go through photographs to match the children. Therefore the FRS, which aids in making the match, is being promoted by Bachpan Bachao Andolan,”
“The Beti Bachao Andolan” has been pushing for a National Tribunal for Children along the lines of The National Green Tribunal, after the successful trail held in Delhi, suggestions have been made to offer it to other state police departments or overhaul the government website so that the FRS can be run internally, regardless of what happens next, this initiative is worthy of praise and deserves accolades. It might not end the missing child problem in India but surely is a step in the right direction. This is also an example of how social problems can be countered with technological solutions.