A happy video of two toddlers playing on a swing inside a shelter home in the Shivajinagar gaonthan area of Pune quickly turned into a nightmare, as their frail figures were seen jumping over the security gates of the building.
The two girls – one a 6-year-old and one an 8-year-old – were reported missing on Tuesday.
After a three-day hunt, the girls were found with a family under a bridge near the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) building in Shivajinagar.
“We were searching for them on a war footing. They are young and the parents were not able to look after them. They were missing their parents. They could have easily been pushed into human trafficking. Finally, we could find them and we will try to take steps that will prevent the recurrence of this incident,” said Priyanka Narnavare, deputy commissioner of police, Zone 1, Pune.
“The girls were found by the beggar family that took them in without questioning them, fed them whatever they could, and gave them clothes they had. They did not bring the girls to the police, as they should have, but they did not abandon them either,” said senior police inspector Balasaheb Kopnar of Shivajinagar police station.
When they were found to have gone missing, a case under Section 363 (kidnapping) of Indian Penal Code was registered and the police machinery got active.
However, the two sisters were blissfully unaware of what had transpired over the past few days. After being found on Thursday evening, the elder one flopped on the police station floor with a pen and paper she had borrowed from the police station official who was recording her statement. As she drew stick figures of a man and his child in front of a house, her younger sibling ran around the station and gave different answers to similar questions that was directed towards her by everyone around her – what did you do for three day? Why did you leave?
However, the answer she gave to a worker of the Rainbow Foundation was the most believable to her parents as well as her caretakers at the shelter home – “We wanted wada pav, so we left”.
For the girls who were born on the open-air of the streets, the security of four walls albeit without their parents, was restricting and less fun.
“We found them on March 5 in a tin-shed with their parents and grandmother in Ramtekdi, Hadapsar. They live on the streets, beg for a living, and we counselled them that their children will have a better home with us. With their consent, we brought the girls to the shelter home that is above a school run by PMC,” said Pooja Karande, manager at Rainbow Foundation.
The girls had attempted to run away from the shelter on the third day of Diwali – November 16 – too.
“A rickshaw driver had found them and brought them to the Faraskhana police station. We had felicitated him for doing it. But this time it was very difficult. We formed two teams – one was checking CCTV footage and providing inputs to the team on ground. For the first entire day, we traced various locations, and at last saw them near the rear end of the Omkareshwar temple after which we lost their trail for some time before finding a footage of them walking with the family,” said police inspector (crime) V Goud of Shivajinagar police station.
Since the girls went missing, the foundation has pushed the PMC to provide funds which were used to install a mesh on the security gate and metal arrows on the top of the gate. The girls, who now seem more attached to the shelter home care-takers than their mother, have been sent to live with their mother and her parents in Nigdi.
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