Government of India, India, Stories

Data: Around 2/3rd of Persons Reported as Missing in India Are Female. More Than 50% of All Missing Persons Are Reported Traced


Social media is flooded with posts about missing women in the country and in various states following the controversy around the number mentioned in the teaser of ‘The Kerala Story’. Data provided in the NCRB’s CII reports indicates that females constitute around 2/3rds of all persons reported as missing. The data also indicates that 50% of all missing persons are reported as traced.

Of late, social media is flooded with posts regarding missing women in the country. This is following a claim made by a filmmaker that tens of thousands of women have gone missing from Kerala in the last decade and many of them got converted to Islam and recruited by ISIS. Following the claim, many media reports emerged citing NCRB data that over 40,000 women went missing from Gujarat. The Gujarat Police took to Twitter and stated that about 95% of them were traced and reunited with their families. In this backdrop, we look at the figures on ‘missing persons’ reported in the country.

Lakhs of people are reported missing in India every year

Every year, lakhs of people are reported as missing in India, including women and children. The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) of the United Kingdom defines a missing person as “Anyone whose whereabouts is unknown whatever the circumstances of disappearance. They will be considered missing until located and their well-being or otherwise established”. The Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India follows a similar definition for missing child defined 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”. 

Many of these missing persons are traced by the police within a short span of time while the others are either never found or are found as victims of misfortune. Additionally, there are also cases of persons missing but not reported to the police or inquired into. There are numerous reasons, owing to social, economic, and cultural factors, why people go missing. It is not always easy to ascertain whether someone’s disappearance is intentional or unintentional. For instance, a child must have run away from home to escape abuse and becomes vulnerable to trafficking and drug abuse. However, broadly, the reasons behind people going missing are listed below.

  • Voluntarily leaving for an elopement, academic failure, to escape abuse at the place of residence, financial issues, and more
  • Going missing unintentionally due to health issues like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s among the elderly, getting drifted during conflicts and disasters, getting separated in huge gatherings like melas or religious conferences, etc.
  • Getting kidnapped or becoming victims of immoral trafficking

NCRB started providing data on missing persons since 2016 following SC directions

In this story, we use data provided in the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB)’s annual Crime in India (CII) report. The datasets are sourced from Dataful, a product of Factly. 

It should be noted that NCRB started providing detailed data on missing & traced persons including children from 2016 onwards following the Supreme Court’s direction in Writ Petition (Civil) No.75 of 2012 dated 17 January 2013. The Supreme Court had asked the NCRB to publish data on missing children and human trafficking cases to analyse the data and study the emerging trends, in addition to data on traced and untraced persons. It should also be noted that the data published by NCRB is restricted to those cases where FIRs have been registered by the police in respective States/UTs. There can also be many cases of missing people that do not come to the notice of the police. 

20.36 lakh persons have been reported missing in the last 6 years

According to the NCRB data, a total of 20.36 lakh persons have been reported missing in the six years from 2016 to 2021. An average of 3.4 lakh people were reported missing each year or 930 persons every day or 39 persons every hour during these six years. Further, the number of persons reported missing has increased from 2.9 lakhs in 2016 to almost 3.9 lakhs in 2021, registering an increase of 34%. This is despite a 15% decline in 2020, which may be due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Females constitute a majority of these missing persons. From a share of 60% in 2016, females made up more than 68% of all missing persons in both 2020 and 2021. The number of females reported as missing has increased by almost 53% from 1.74 lakh in 2016 to 2.65 lakh in 2021 while the number of missing males has increased by less than 7%. A total of 1,235 transgender persons have been reported as missing during these six years. 

Share of children among those reported missing has dropped marginally since 2016

Each of the NCRB CII reports categorized the missing persons into different age groups. In this story, we have classified the same into two- children (those aged below 18 years) and adults (those aged above 18 years). 

The number of children reported as missing has increased by 22% in six years. However, the least number of children were reported missing in 2020 and the greatest in 2021. It is seen that the number of children reported missing in 2021 had increased by almost 31% as compared to 2020. Meanwhile, the number of adults, including senior citizens, reported as missing has gone up by 38% since 2016. The share of children among all the persons reported missing has dropped from almost 22% in 2016 to less than 20% in 2021. On the other side, the share of adults has increased from 78% to 80%. That is, more adults are being reported as missing, as compared to children despite an increase in the numbers of both groups.

Another observation is that the share of female children reported missing is more than that of female adults. That is, the share of females among adults reported missing was 58% in 2016 and touched 66% in 2021. The share of females among missing children was nearly 65% in 2016 and was close to 77% in 2020 and 2021. 

Around 50% of the total number of persons unrecovered have been traced

The percentage share of persons traced is calculated as the percentage ratio of the total number of persons traced in the year against the total number of persons missing in that year. In other words, the number of persons traced includes even those persons reported missing in previous years and traced in that particular year. Likewise, the total number of missing persons includes even those persons unrecovered from previous years. 

The percentage of missing persons traced among persons of all groups has been around 50% in the last five years. Relatively, the share of females traced is higher than that of males. The share of females traced across all age groups is between 52 to 55% while that among males is 44 to 48%. The rate of tracing among transgender persons is highly skewed because of the relatively smaller number of persons reported missing and traced. It is seen that among children, the rate of tracing females is in the range of 60 to 65% while that of males is about 55 to 60%. 

In part 2 of this story, we will look at the trends in missing people, and the rate of traced persons across states. 


About Author

A bachelor’s degree in mathematics and master’s in social science, she is driven by ardent desire to work with this unique combination to create her own path instead of following the herd. Having served a stint as the college union chairperson, she is a strategist who is also passionate about nature conservation, art and loves solving Sudoku.

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