“He was 12 when he went missing one day. For three years, there had been no information despite our repeated trips to the Bhosari police station. But six months back, a family friend spotted him in Indrayani Nagar area. Before they could reach out to Mehtab, the man accompanying him sped away with him on a two-wheeler. After this, he has been spotted riding pillion on a two-wheeler at least twice,” said his father Matlub Alam Shaikh.
Shaikhs believe since Mehtab is mentally unstable, he is being made to slog in a small scale unit. “Our family friends who saw him said he was in a bad shape, his clothes were also not good, besides he was carrying some goods on his lap. We fear he is being used as a bonded labourer...” said a family member.
Shaikh has filed a complaint with the Bhosari police to launch a search in the Bhosari-Indrayani Nagar area. “We have also alerted autorickshaw drivers in the area,” he said.
Similarly, Vijay Sawant, 27, who too suffers from mental illness, went missing two months ago from Pimple Apartments in Kasarwadi. He had gone missing last year too but was found working in a hotel in Thane. His family is now searching for him at hotels in Mumbai, Panvel and Thane.
“We do not know how he landed up in a hotel last year. We feel some people could be on the lookout for mentally ill kids so that their services could be used without having to pay them,” said Nanda Sawant, mother of Vijay.
While hundreds of people remain missing every year, police claim that the mechanism to trace missing persons has been strengthened of late. “Earlier, sketchy details of the missing persons were recorded with the police. Now, complete information on the missing person is recorded and passed on to the CID, which is regularly updating its records,” said senior police inspector Bhanupratap Barge of the Social Security Cell. He said close monitoring and regular review was also being undertaken.