Mumbai: RPF not serious about searching for autistic boy
Father of Tarun Gupta, missing since October 1, says most Western Railway stations neither know about case nor have his son's photo
While each day passes without them having an inkling about their son's whereabouts, the Railway Protection Force (RPF) have no clue of even the case, claimed Tarun Gupta's father, Vinod Gupta on Sunday. On Saturday, Vinod and a few family members went looking for Tarun at Palghar, Dahanu and Vapi railway stations.
Much to their shock, when they enquired with RPF officials at the stations about him, they seemed to have never even heard about the case. Not one RPF official knew anything about him. No one even had a photograph of him. This means the RPF have not sounded any 'alert'. RPF told me four days ago that an 'all India alert' had been sounded and that the search for Tarun would commence in a few hours," the 16-year-old autistic teen's father said. Tarun went missing from the vicinity of his Colaba home on October 1.
He also accused the RPF of being lackadaisical about contacting passengers who were aboard the D-10 coach of the Dadar-bound Janshatabdi Express — which Tarun boarded from Sawantwadi — on October 3. "I spoke to some of the passengers; they have not been contacted by the authorities. I came to know of this on Saturday night," he said. "They are being frivolous about this. Tarun doesn't hold any value for them. They will realise their mistake only when something happens to him. We have been searching for him like madmen and following every lead but the authorities lack the humanity to look for him."
mid-day reached out to some of the passengers aboard the train on October 3. Sandeep Digaskar, a resident of Thane, was travelling with his family when he heard a commotion in the coach next to his. "I saw that a boy was being yelled at by the Ticket Collector and a passenger for sitting on a reserved berth," he said. "One of my cousins is specially-abled. Having been around him helped me realise that Tarun is specially-abled as soon as I looked at him."
A grab from CCTV camera footage shows Tarun Gupta at Sawantwadi railway station. File pic
According to Digaskar, Tarun was made to get up from the seat, after which, he stood near the door. As the train crossed Ratnagiri, some police officers boarded the train and spoke to Tarun about where he was headed but left when they could not get a straight answer. "He was wearing a T-shirt, shorts, and had a water bottle in his hand. We tried to speak to him but he did not talk much. Sometimes he said he is getting down at Panvel, some other times he said Dadar," Digaskar said.
Digaskar gave Tarun food and water from a fellow passenger. He and his family alighted at Thane while Tarun continued on to Dadar. Two weeks after this incident when Digaskar went to Panvel for some work, he saw the missing posters with Tarun's picture and contacted Vinod. "The authorities called me two days after I spoke with Vinod," he said. Another passenger, Mohan Hatle, 67, had boarded the Janshatabdi Express from Kankavli. "I got down at Thane but he didn't. He went to the coach behind us instead," Hatle said. Hatle was contacted by the authorities on Sunday at around 11am.
Senior Divisonal Security Commissioner KK Ashraf said that an 'all India alert' was sounded by them in the first week of November. "We put out requests on the RPF's all-India WhatsApp group. Along with the RPF, a police team is also working on the case," he said. Ashraf added that there are fewer chances of Tarun having left the stations. "We think he is still in the railway system." When asked why then was he not found yet, Ashraf said: "He should have been found by now. I have told my officers to keep an eye on people who sleep on platforms. The problem is that we don't have any idea which station he
might be at."
Day Tarun went missing
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