The all-too-familiar scene from a Bollywood movie—that of a tearful child lost in a big crowded place, anxiously looking around for parents, has created many a box-office success.
In the movies, usually, the child gets reunited with the parents. Real-life is different. Getting lost in a large crowd, children find themselves at the mercy of indifferent strangers or worse, unscrupulous elements who may try and take advantage of them.
If the child happens to be found by a well-wisher or authorities, he/she is usually too distraught to be coherent. The age-old problem of children getting lost in huge crowds gives parents palpitations. Lilavati Devi lost her 12-year old son at the Kumbh Mela in 2006, and hasn’t found him, according to The Hindu.
Over the course of time, many initiatives have come up, to help lost children reunite with parents.
At the Sabarimala Yatra 2017, a new method relies on technology to help reunite missing children with their parents.
Vodafone has teamed up the Kerala State Police, to create a Radio Frequency Identification RFID) tag that children can wear, to ensure that their movements and location can be tracked till their parents are found.
Sabarimala is considered one of the largest annual pilgrimages in the world, with millions of devotees visiting every year. This year as well, hordes of pilgrims are expected to visit the Sabarimala Yatra during the 2017-2018 Mandalam/Makara Vilakku season. The pilgrimage entails trekking through difficult forest paths to reach the Sabarimala Sri Ayyappa Temple.
Every year, the police stations at Sannidhanam and Pampa get tearful and desperate requests from harassed parents looking for their missing children.
For the first time, all the children under 14 years of age will sport Vodafone RFID tags on their necks.
Families who visit the Sabarimala Yatra with children below 14 years old mandatorily need to visit the Kerala State Police office at Pamba, and register to avail this service. Upon registration, each child is provided with a RFID tag, containing the child’s names and the guardian’s name, contact number and other relevant details.
If a lost child is found wandering in the crowd, a police officer can simply take the child to the control room and use an RFID reader to read the child’s tag. The whereabouts of the child will be sent to the registered mobile number.
This method differs from the others because it is automated. The child doesn’t have to do anything. An alert goes out to the mobile number registered. After all, a lost child might not know the language to communicate with police officials.
Dr S. Sateesh Bino IPS—District Police Chief and Pathanamthitta, Karuppaswamy IPS—Special Officier Pamba, officially launched the RFID tags, in the presence of Ajit Chaturvedi, Business Head – Kerala, Vodafone India.
The step is touted to cut down on the number of children getting lost, especially on days when the pilgrim density is high, and the area is packed with hawkers, traders and alms-seekers.
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The launch of these RFID tags is also going to take the load away from the Public Announcement System—the go-to for announcements of missing children. It will also allow the police to streamline the process of dealing with lost children, and concentrate on other important tasks at hand.
Losing your child in a crowd of thousands is traumatic. Apart from keeping a close eye on the youngsters with you, take some basic precautions to have a hassle-free pilgrimage.
Park vehicles at designated spots and do not jump queues or rush them. Co-operate with the support staff. Stick to recommended pathways, like Pampa and Sannidhanam, and remember to keep them clean.
There are police personnel there for help, do not hesitate to approach them if need be.
A pilgrimage is a great opportunity to re-discover yourself and your faith. Stick to the rules and use the RFID tags for the children with you, to prevent your pilgrimage from becoming a nerve-wracking wild goose chase.