May 11, 2012

Where are our Etan Patzs and Charles Lindberghs?

Continuing my American series from my previous editorial, I must admit that my American tour didn’t start so well. On my flight to the US, I saw three films which symbolized the epitome of boredom of made-only-for-Oscars and Oscars nominated stuff! First, I saw The Iron Lady; then I saw another forgettable movie whose name also I have thankfully forgotten; and finally I saw the movie J Edgar – each outdoing the other in trying to be slow, boring and almost meaningless. But then, when you want to win at the Oscars, a boring biopic is often the best way! Nevertheless, in the most boring J Edgar, what struck me was the fact that perhaps the biggest achievement of the iconic Hoover, the man behind American intelligence, was his investigation of a case of kidnapping of a little boy called Charles Lindbergh. The film and the American society, way back then in 1932, made such a huge issue around the kidnapping and disappearance of a kid – so much so that a famous newspaper writer called the kidnapping and its trial thereafter “the biggest story since resurrection”. The whole incident led to landmark acts and laws being passed, making transporting a kidnapping victim across state lines a federal crime. The accused was given the electric chair after being caught a couple of years later. But Hoover had used that particular kidnapping as a tool to lobby for a centralized record-keeping system leading to the fingerprint mapping of every citizen and the beginning of the world’s most efficient intelligence body – the Federal Bureau of Investigation; FBI.

Upon landing and reaching the hotel, even as my thoughts on the importance given by the American society to a single case of kidnapping had barely subsided, I read in the papers about the story of a 1979 kidnapping... that of a child called Etan Patz. What amazed me was that though the boy was kidnapped 33 years ago at the age of 6, and declared dead in 2001 since he could never be found, the police and FBI didn’t give up on him and continued their search. And then, in April 2012, they discovered a basement under a road near the boy’s home, where a carpenter lived, who was possibly someone who had had a hand in the murder. What struck me in the story again was how the kidnapping then in 1979 had shaken up the entire America and had resulted in amazing new awareness and changes in various systems – of parenting and schooling. Earlier, schools never alerted the parents if a child didn’t show up at school; but post the Etan case, schools started doing so, in order to ensure that in case there were a similar tragedy, it wouldn’t take till the end of the day for the parents to come to know – thereby saving precious hours for search operations to begin. Ronald Reagan even declared May 25th – the day of Etan’s disappearance – as the Missing Children’s Day. More importantly, a national system was laid down to track children who disappeared. The National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children since then has tracked down more than a hundred and fifty thousand kids. And as per statistics, the rate of recovery now stands at an extraordinary 97%, up from 62% in 1990!

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17 comments:

Nisha said...

Great to see the success of the cinema world..finally it reached its destination where it can inspire or help out the people to get aware of such pity happenings and live safely..such inspirational movies and articles are always welcomed and appreciated..!!!

sahil said...

kidnapping is a crime it should not be ignored at any leavel

Rohan said...

It feel good to see the effective support by the Government.

Rajan said...

Such movies most be released world wide so to aware people about the crime.

Atanu said...

Its nice to get an inspiration from these kind of movies and to make people aware.

Smita Nayak said...

Nice article sir ... we should work at our own level to let this problem down the line of the crime world.

Tinku Sharma said...

Its amazing how movies can affect lives of people and change the system.....the drastic jump in the recovery of missing children from 62% to 97% says it all.

mahesh kumar said...

No one takes any action unless and until people responsible are dragged in public.....movies and TV are the best way to make people and the govt as well aware of all the thing happening in the country.

Anand Rawat said...

It never matters to the Indian govt. or ministers how many children go missing everyday.....they are all simply a silent spectator.

jasmeen said...

Centres such as the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children can solve such cases to a great extent.....Indian govt and its system should learn something and act the same way.

aaryan said...

Movies does have an impact and making movies on such real life incidents can at least act as a wake up call to the govt.

Ganesh said...

Indian govt. never takes any action concerning common people of the country unless and until news channels are involved.

Deepak Verma said...

It really seems worth of a child is measured by where he actually belongs that is why cases of the ones belonging to the slums are hardly opened. Its really sad and disgraceful to know how partial our system has been.

suman kumari said...

Determination and commitment do make a huge difference.........if our govt. is determined to tackle such cases they can surely be successful in each and every case.

sonika said...

The most recent example of how television can make a huge difference is Aamir Khan's Satyamev Jayate that promises to bring into light many problems affecting people.

ankit said...

good article.....seriously a sorry state for the helpless poor people.....something seriously needs to be done to stop this inhuman act.

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