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5 Children Disappear Every Hour in India – A Chennai Man Has Developed an App to Find Them

Thanks to a rich repository data, the app uses facial recognition software to track missing children in India, and has helped find 100 of them so far!

The last time S Krishnan saw his 10-year-old brother was on an afternoon in February 1988, when they ventured out to play a game of hide and seek. Twenty eight years later, Krishnan still seeks his little brother, who vanished during the game they played in their East Tambaram neighbourhood in Chennai.

Despite relentlessly sharing and uploading his little brother S Venkatesan’s pictures, Krishnan, who is now based in the US, has been unable to trace him.

Picture for representation only. Photo Credit: Pixabay

Recently, he came across IT professional Vijay Gnanadesikan’s office in Adyar, whose team makes use of their ample repository data of missing children, and tracks them with the help of facial recognition. With the help of social media and several Central and state government websites, the team has been able to put together a bank of photos of almost 3 lakh missing children.

“If you feed in a photo, our software automatically links it to children who look similar in our database,” Vijay told a TNN reporter.

Currently, a closed application called Facetagr has helped track over 100 children across India. There are talks between Vijay’s team and the anti-child trafficking unit in Tamil Nadu along with the directorate of social defence to include facial recognition in its tracking system. The Centre has a public website to register missing children called ‘Khoya Paya’, and ‘Track Child’ through which the police, government and charities can coordinate repatriation.

According to a report by the Track Child portal, between January 2012 and March 2017, 2.5 lakh children have gone missing. This means that on an average, five children disappear every hour. Rummaging through lakhs of photos of missing children is understandably not an easy task. According to Vijay, sometimes the spellings of the child’s name may differ in the lost-and-found database, or the family might not have a picture of the child. In that case, a photo of the missing child’s sibling can also be helpful.

The recently formulated Standard Operating Procedure by the Union ministry of women and child development aims to expand the scope of the search and improve rehabilitation, but it comes with its share of criticism. Vijay’s team has also been trying to track families of about 15,000 trafficked children from Nepal into India. The volunteers there will be given 15 handsets with the app, according to Vijay. Although the app faces several challenges despite its rich repository of data, it definitely speeds up the process thanks to its face recognition software. P M Nair, chair professor and research coordinator on human trafficking at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai, also told TOI that the face recognition technology will be a “big boost to trace children.”

Know more about Khoya Paya here.

Featured image for representation only. Source: Flickr

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Written by Deepika Bhardwaj

When she's not resolving conflicts between belief and desire, she's letting her mornings be consumed by Coltrane and leaving her nights in the hands of Hendrix. An average singer and lover of graphic novels, Deepika tries to proper your noun for a living.