Lost and with no way to go home, Satyaram Paswan (65) woke up at Diamond Harbour hospital with no familiar face nearby. His family, long since assuming he was “lost” at the Ganga Sagar Mela, had returned to their native Hazipur in Bihar. The district administration and police turned to amateur radio operators for help. Within 48 hours, Paswan was reunited with his family, giving the government a possible way to handle the many missing cases at the mela every year.
“We thought he had gotten lost or was dead. He can’t speak Bangla or Hindi, so it was impossible to communicate with doctors. Somehow, he has come back to us. This is nothing short of a miracle,” Satyaram’s son, Pradip Paswan, told The Indian Express.
The West Bengal Radio Club (Amateur Club) comprises of individuals from different ages — ranging from school students to social workers. With support from the South-24 Parganas administration and police, and in association with the state Inter Agency Group (IAG), the club was looking to aid those who lost their loved ones in the mela. Paswan’s case, however, was “unique”.
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“He was admitted to the hospital, unconscious and without any ID on him. He wasn’t able to communicate with doctors, the police or the administration. When we got to know about the case, we sent out messages to different parts of the country – to the network of amateur radio operators. We were able to figure out that he was from Bihar, and then the district. We contacted the police, sending photographs of him, and after that they tracked down the family,” said Ambarish Nag Biswas, secretary, Bengal Amateur Radio Club.
Ganga Sagar Mela, also known as Ganga Sagar Yatra or Ganga Snan, is the annual gathering of pilgrims to take a dip in the Ganga, where the river merges with the Bay of Bengal at Makar Sankranti in Sagar Island. Famous globally and a key focus of the state government’s religious tourism plans, the mela is also the second-largest congregation of humanity in the world after the Kumbh Mela in UP.
“Every years, a number of people get lost and it is always a major problem for us. Every year, we take precautions and change our tactics, but the sheer scale makes instantaneous connections very important. This year, the amateur radio operators have helped us tremendously,” said an official. “This is a possible solution for future as well as past cases. There are many people who come to Diamond Harbour hospital with no way to go back. We are trying to track those people and their families,” added Biswas.