Coming across this unfortunate news article where two kids aged 5 & 9 were kidnapped in Faisalabad by a Rickshaw driver. The girl was successfully recovered but her brother was slaughtered in cold blood and left in an open drain. The kid’s father reportedly worked for an intelligence agency. They are thought of as the “untouchables ” in our country and if the children of people who are supposed to protect our children are not safe, something is terribly wrong, therefore I highly feel compelled to advise my readers about this alarming rise in such kidnapping in our country.
But Before I start writing, I must clarify that I am not stereotyping the (rickshaw) drivers, most of which work very hard and honestly to provide sustenance for their families. Also the purpose is not to spread alarm, but rather awareness, which our society tends to lack sometimes. Viewer experiences and suggestions are warmly welcome.
Growing up as a child in the 90’s, I have vivid memories of my mother dropping me off and picking us from the school every day (even though we had a driver). We didn’t cherish the idea then but in hindsight, it becomes clear why she did it. As society progresses, parents find it hard with their conflicting work schedules to pick and drop off the kids from school and often resort to convenient pick-n-drop services. At the same time our country faces acute problems like inflation, crime and unemployment, etc. Coming quickly to the point focus should be on two aspects of this element; i.e, prevention and what to do in the event this catastrophe knocks on your door.
1. Use common sense and best judgement. This might seem like the most obvious answer to most problems but experience and literature proves that it indeed is the best thing. Always think about situations, however bizarre they might seem and do your homework.
2. Background check. In this case, being as paranoid as NSA in USA might actually be a smart move. Look into the company, talk to parents already using the transport services & their track record etc. If it’s (as in most cases) just a driver with his vehicle, it would be extremely prudent to look into the following, but not limited to the following things:
· Get the driver’s CNIC copy along with at least two guarantors’ as well. Also it can be helpful to verify the area where he lives.
· Inspect the vehicle’s condition and safety aspects.
· It would be worth the effort to get the person’s background verified from the local police station.
· (Apologies if this sounds discriminating) take extra care if the driver is a young male for female children. Parents usually prefer married “Baba ji” supporting a beard.
3. Maintain strict routine. If the driver turns late to pick and especially late to drop children, it should not be tolerated. It should be well communicated that if the children don’t turn up on time (even if few minutes), the driver gets a phone call.
4. Educate your children. Children should be well aware from a young age what is considered safe and not to trust any stranger. They should also know the usual route to school and any deviance (apart from the obvious detours one has to make sometimes) is a sign of alarm. It is expected that children are not in possession of communication devices so calling for help is out of question but they can shout for help and foil such attempts.
5. Track of movements. In case of multiple kids using the same facility knowing the contact numbers (and address ) of other families is essential. If children are late, calling the child’s home who was supposed to be dropped first or last could kind of give you a lot of information. Also, it is better that children of 1 street use the same vehicle, SAFETY IN NUMBERS!
In case of emergency
1. Keep calm. Although sounds easier said than done but when something wrong happens, that is the best you can do to retain rational thinking and making sensible decisions. We as a society tend to be emotional and the word think comes after the act.
2. DO contact the police. As with most kidnappings and the stern threat of not calling the police, it may actually save the life of your child. Notorious as our police is, they are used to dealing with cases like this and can actually get things done. Sadly, the higher patronage you have within the police department, the better service you will get (time to call the uncle who is the SSP or knows him).
3. Be sensible with the kidnapper. The trick is not to escalate the situation and buy as much time and goodwill as possible. Making statements like “Do you know who I am” or “My uncle is so-and-so” or “Mere bachay ko kuch hua toh mene tujhe chorna ni” will do your cause no good. Best strategy to employ would be to agree with the criminal and not give in too much leverage (which will be used against you). Fair to say that you love your children and can’t conceive the idea of any harm done to them, showing it all to the criminal will make them exploit it the easier.
4. Pray. Whatever religion or school of thought you come from, this would be the perfect time to seek solace in the divine being(s) you believe in. Frankly speaking the chances of a 100% safe and smooth recovery has the same probability as snowfall in hell so it could make the difference.