Mumbai: Lack of central database delays search for 16-year-old autistic boy

Updated: Nov 30, 2019, 07:42 IST | Gaurav Sarkar | Mumbai

Father of Tarun Gupta, who went missing on Oct 1, says search parties are always a few hours behind whenever his missing son has been sighted in the state.

Tarun's parents, Vinod and Asha Gupta, show a CCTV grab in which Tarun can be seen. Pics/Bipin Kokate
Tarun's parents, Vinod and Asha Gupta, show a CCTV grab in which Tarun can be seen. Pics/Bipin Kokate

The lack of a database of CCTV footage has led to a huge drawback in the search of a special needs teen, Tarun Gupta, who went missing on October 1. Forum For Autism (FFA) members, who have been helping Vinod, planned to use facial recognition software to examine CCTV footage from cameras installed at Central Railway stations. However, taking it to each railway station is practically impossible, they say. They instead review each footage themselves.

FFA member Vijay Shree R, 42, said, "Tarun seems to be going from one place to another and we are always a few hours behind after we receive reports of his sightings. Either his father or we first go to the railway station where he is reportedly sighted and spend hours going through the CCTV footage. This is extremely time-consuming."

Sulekha Doshi, another FFA member, said: "It's been 60 days since he went missing and yet the police have not uploaded his FIR on their server. If we or the child's father want any information or update, we have to visit the police station. Furthermore, his name hasn't been put in the list of missing persons on trackthemissingchild.gov.in, where authorities and citizens can report sightings of missing kids."

Vinod Gupta shows Tarun's grab from a CCTV camera footage
Vinod Gupta shows Tarun's grab from a CCTV camera footage

"There are a lot of drawbacks in the system — that is why my son got lost in the first place. If we concentrate on these flaws instead of searching for Tarun, we will
simply lose our focus," said Vinod. "No concrete evidence has been found by either the Railway Protection Force (RPF) or the city police."

Demand for special team
Vinod has launched an online petition on change.org requesting Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Smriti Irani (Minister of Women and Child Development), Piyush Goyal (Minister of Railways), Arun Kumar (DG Railway Protection Force) and Subodh Kumar Jaiswal (Directorate General of Police, Maharashtra) to create a 'high priority' search team. It has garnered over 20,000 signatures. "Such a team would be of great help," said Vinod.

According to CR's Chief Public Relations Officer Shivaji Sutar, approximately 300 children went missing on CR between January and November this year. "There is no centralised system (to review CCTV footage)," he told mid-day. "The footage has to be reviewed independently at each station."

He added that CSMT is the only station from where one can monitor six nearby stations on CCTV cameras. When asked about the lack of a centralised database, he said: "We have our personal staff and the RPF staff at each station. When we get a message about a missing person/child, we alert the concerned authority and get details from the control room." Retired Mumbai police officer, Vasant Dhoble has suggested that Varun's information be uploaded on his website www.missingpeopleinfo.com

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