About a month ago, a three-year-old baby girl—the child of poor migrant laborers—was kidnapped from one of Mumbai's busiest train stations, the CS Terminus, at 2 a.m. by a stranger. The girl's parents were migrant "contract" laborers hailing from Vidharbha, one of the poorest regions of Maharashtra. They used to clean the railway tracks at the CS Terminus and on that fateful day had missed the last train and so had decided to sleep on the platform.

The kidnapping of the baby was captured on CCTV (closed circuit television) installed at the CST. The terminus was the sight of terror attacks in 2008 and the CCTV system was installed after the episode. The fate of the child is unknown, though with the heinous drugs, child abuse, and begging mafia that is known to operate in the city, the condition of the baby is not likely to be very good.

However what's shocking about the entire episode is that this TV footage was released by the cops nearly a month after the episode! It shows a man in the age group of about 20–25 years picking up the sleeping child and walking away while nobody did anything to stop him. Why this man, who himself had alighted from a train at 2 a.m. and walked around the station before he picked up the child, was not questioned by anybody who was supposed to be watching the CCTV is a mystery. One would have expected more vigilance since the CST was a victim of terror attacks, however why it took the cops one month before they did anything is really an eye-opener pointing towards the pathetic law enforcement that is prevalent in a city that is the commercial capital of India. In fact, even in 2008, the efficacy of the enforcement authorities was questioned, when a bunch of terrorists virtually laid siege over a city teeming with millions.

The law and order condition in the state has deteriorated over the years and it has the dubious distinction of topping the crime charts in the country for the period 2005–2008:

Cases registered in Maharashtra in 2005-08

Murder – 10,765
Rape – 6,054
Kidnapping – 5,146
Dacoity – 2,831
Attempted dacoity – 1,309
Robbery – 10,786
Burglary – 63,103
Theft – 193,865
Riots – 31,613

During 2005-08, Maharashtra registered 780,765 cases under the Indian Penal Code which is the highest number in the country during this period followed by Bihar, which had 464,363 cases .

This story of the little girl illustrated above also has one more angle: that of the paradox of poverty and prosperity that prevails in Maharashtra. It's the poverty that drives families described above to bigger cities like Mumbai in search of livelihood options, however in most cases they become victims of unfair labor practices and, as is illustrated in this case, crime.

Some economic statistics that highlight the vast disparity prevalent in the state are described below:

Maharashtra has the image of a developed agro-industrial state. As per the 2011 Census, Maharashtra has population of 11.23 Crore, an increase vis a vis the 2001 figure of 9.69 Crore. The population of Maharashtra forms 9.29 percent of India in 2011. In 2001, the figure was 9.42 percent. The gross state domestic product (GSDP) contributes about 14.7 percent of the GDP.

There are huge variations in the per capita income prevailing among various districts of the state. As per released statistics, the average per capita income in the state is INR 74,027, including Mumbai, Pune, and Thane districts. If these three districts are excluded then the figure drops to INR 56,241. The highly urbanized districts of Greater Mumbai, Nagpur, Pune and Thane together account for 52 percent of the income. The national figure is INR 46,492.

Washim, Nadurbar, Gadchiroli, Hingoli, Nanded, Buldana, Latur, Beed, Jalna, and Parbhani (most of these places are in the Vidharbha region-which incidentally is the place from where the laborers and the child hailed)  have per capita incomes which are well below the national level. Nearly, 42 percent of the state's income is accounted for by the Konkan region (districts of Greater Mumbai, Raigad and Thane). The state's average per capita income is Rs.17, 864/-. Across districts, Greater Mumbai has the highest per capita income Rs.39,702/-, which is more than double the state's average, whereas Gadchiroli has the lowest per capita income of Rs. 7,144/-, which is around 40 percent of the state's average!

The agriculture sector has seen a decline in the state (Mishra 2006). The services sector has been the major contributor to the GSDP and has reached nearly 60 percent in 2003–2004 while the share of agriculture has fallen to 12 percent in 2003–04. In 2009–2010 it was the increase in oilseed production by about 28 percent and pulses by 15 percent during that helped to push-up the otherwise dismal growth rate of 2.9 percent. During 2009–2010, the average yield per hectare for food grains in the State was 1,074 kg, which is far below national average of 1,798 kg.

The move away from agriculture has also contributed to a host of other problems such as an increase in the small and marginal holdings, conversion of agricultural land to commercial land (pull-push effect), loss of livelihood sources and a step closer to informal debt and its malaise. In 2006, the state recorded 4,453 farmers' suicides and accounted for over a quarter of the all-India total of 17,060, according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).This figure was estimated to be over 5,000 deaths between 2005–2009 in Maharashtra.

Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire won laurels and awards in the international arena and showcased the dark underbelly of the child trafficking racket in Mumbai. However, for the parents of the missing girl, life is never going to be the same.

[PHOTO CREDIT: Roger Price (CC).]

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Tags: Crime, Girl, India, Maharashtra, Mumbai, Poverty, agriculture, migration, security

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