No More Missing: To Reunite Child Beggars With Their Families, Click A Photo & Share On Social Media

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A couple of days ago, Ankit was thronged by a group of child beggars near Phoenix mall in Pune. Had it been someone else, they might have dismissed the kids with a few ten-rupee notes or simply ignored them. But Ankit stumbled upon a little boy among them, still uneasy with the practice of approaching people for money. Immediately, he managed to click a photo of the boy and shared it on the public Facebook group – No More Missing. The photo has been circulating on social media for the past few days and active searches are on for the boy’s family.

‘No More Missing’, a citizen-driven pan-India initiative to prevent child trafficking has managed to rescue and reunite hundreds of missing children with their families. Their basic mandate is to stop giving money to child beggars anywhere but to circulate their photo instead. 

The Horrifying Menace Of Child Trafficking

The movement was launched in September 2015 by Dr Vandna Guliya, a social activist from Delhi. She was deeply troubled by frequent reports of little children being trafficked into begging rackets which are active in urban pockets. As a mother, she was inevitably worried about the safety of her own children and genuinely concerned about the rising menace of child trafficking. 

“Most of the child beggars we find on the streets might have been abducted and sold into this abysmal profession. Some of them have been trafficked hundreds of miles away from their homes. Finding a missing child in India is like searching for a needle in a haystack,” Vandna explains the problem to Efforts For Good

No one has ever become poor by giving
– Anne Frank

How No More Missing Works

This is where the power of social media comes in handy. It takes just a few moments to upload the photo of a child beggar along with the location. The photo is circulated widely on Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter or Instagram in dedicated No More Missing groups or among the public until the child is reunited with the family.

Photos of missing children are also uploaded and shared along with a detailed description. Harnessing the splendid outreach of social media is way faster than solely depending on police authorities or Missing Persons Bureau to initiate action.

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“We have more than 20 crore members in India who keep the No More Missing network active 24×7. The impact of the movement has gone beyond borders. Countries like the UK, USA have started similar citizen-driven programmes to ensure the safety of children,” shares Vandna.

No More Missing
No More Missing volunteers

Vandna believes that creating awareness about the safety of kids deserves paramount importance. She operates a No More Missing core team comprising 12 full-time members who conduct safety workshops for children and their parents in schools and communities across India, especially Delhi, Rajasthan and Hyderabad. The entire funding comes from Vandna’s personal savings. She strongly discourages any attempt to monetise the movement.

How To Ensure Your Child’s Safety

In most cases, a child goes missing due to momentary negligence by the parent, be it in a crowd or public transport. No More Missing trains parents how to stay alert all the time. They also teach children how to protect themselves in public spaces and strangers with malicious intent.

Vandna advises, “We request all parents to approach the authorities immediately in case their child goes missing. They should file a report to 1098 and go through all the documentation paraphernalia in details. All these are very important in locating a missing child.”

No More Missing
Vandna conducting an awareness session at a school

“You take pity on a poor child in shabby clothes and give them some money. Little do you realise that money will only end up in the hands of racketeers. Our responsibility is to break this vicious cycle. Give them food, clothes and share their photos around – that’s the best way to prevent them from turning into beggars,” she adds.

A-lister celebrities like Vidya Balan, Anil Kapoor and John Abraham have pledged their support to the No More Missing movement. The team also has plans to coordinate with Smriti Irani, Minister of Women and Child Development, for more effective child protection measures across the country.

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It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote

MyStory: “Two Months After I Joined IIT For My PhD I Was Diagnosed With TB”

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A person suffering from Tuberculosis (TB) not only battles the ‘Mycobacterium tuberculosis’ bacteria inside his lungs but also from the stigma attached to the disease. It weakens the patients in many different ways in their fight against the dreaded disease.  

My fight with TB was also filled with stigma. I joined IIT Kharagpur for my PhD in January 2015. Two months later, in March 2015, I was diagnosed with TB. I had to take sick leave from March 2015 that eventually lasted till June 2016. Initially, I did not respond well to medication. Further tests revealed that I had multidrug-resistant TB (MDR TB). This meant that the type of TB I had was resistant to two or more of the antitubercular medication I was taking.

About a year after the intensive phase of my treatment, I felt better and applied for readmission to IIT in July 2016. A prerequisite for rejoining was that my faculty members had to verify my application. With the formalities completed, I resumed my education, but I felt that something was amiss. 

My guide indicated that he did not want his work to suffer on account of my illness. I also heard from a senior colleague that my guide had said that I would spread the disease like an ‘infested animal’. I was disheartened at being subjected to this indignity by my supposed mentor.

However, my primary concern was defeating TB, so I didn’t dwell on it. Today, as I reflect on it, I realise the reasons behind the stigma were ignorance as well as fear.

Even among the educated, there are misconceptions about TB. People think all forms of TB are contagious. Others believe the patient is infectious for the entire length of the treatment. Some even believe that TB spreads through touch. This breeds the fear of contracting the illness.

As we know, people stigmatise and discriminate when they fear. I felt the impact of the stigma on two levels – in my professional life and my personal life.

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Professionally, the reluctance of my supervisor to mentor me and his discouragement affected me. I could not decide whether I should wait for the IIT authorities to tell me to leave or drop out. That decision was made for me by luck when I found out that my CSIR grant application was never processed. 

This meant that I would have to pay for my education. Given the expenditure on my treatment, this was unaffordable for me. This was the final nail in the coffin. I was forced to drop out and could not go back to completing my PhD.

What I faced was not technically illegal. I was discouraged from doing my PhD, but it was still a form of stigma. The external stigma I faced led to depression and isolation. 

Eventually, I realised I had to fight. The treatment for TB is difficult, requiring strict compliance and the management of side effects, and these demands resolve. I began motivating myself. I began following a proper diet and completing my treatment to ensure I could recover. I also turned to books as they transported me to other worlds and helped with my isolation. I also focused on reviving my old relationships.

Gradually, things improved. I could not proceed on my desired career path, but I am an educator now. I constantly realise that I have a role to play in shaping young minds. 

Workplace stigma has tangible consequences. It affects an individual’s career, financial opportunities and their right to work with dignity. So what can we do to address this stigma? 

First, we need to sensitise people by educating them about TB, and the impact stigma has on patients.

Another measure is group counselling involving the patient, the employer and the immediate supervisor. Informal versions of these sessions happen in the workplace in the context of illnesses like cancer. Why should it be any different for TB? 

The goal of this session would be to ensure that the patient is in a supportive environment. 

Finally, at a systemic level, there needs to be a workplace policy on stigma mitigation and a mechanism where the patients can anonymously register their concerns about stigma at the workplace.

A person’s career or job is often their calling and a provider of financial security. Workplace stigma creates a hostile work environment, affecting a person’s ability to do their job and their financial security. Financial insecurity and stigma make it harder for the patient to fight TB both in terms of means and motivation. Therefore, addressing stigma in the workplace is critical to patient well-being and recovery but also to their right to work with dignity.

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It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote
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