A 13-year-old autistic child missing from his home for the last five years was reunited with his family Friday. Thanks to Telangana Police’s facial recognition tool called ‘Darpan’, the boy, hailing from Handia in Uttar Pradesh, was traced to a state-run child home at Goalpara in Assam.
Additional DGP (Women Safety) Swati Lakra said the Telangana Police upon identifying the child, informed the station house officer (SHO) of Handia police station who in turn informed the parents of the missing child. They immediately rushed to the child welfare center at Goalpara in Assam and identified him.
A 13 year old autistic boy child who was missing from Uttar Pradesh since 2015 was traced at a child home in Assam after 5 years, by Telangana Police with the help of DARPAN (FacialRecognitionTool) of @TelanganaCOPs #Technology #Darpan pic.twitter.com/hjWtPd9voZ
— Swati Lakra (@SwatiLakra_IPS) October 9, 2020
The boy, identified as Som Soni, was missing from his home since July 14, 2015. A case of a missing person was registered in the police station. A few days later, on July 23, the missing boy was spotted by Goalpara police in Assam and admitted into a local child welfare center.
Recently, Telangana Police – while using the Darpan tool to match photographs of missing children with those who have been housed at child homes across the country – traced Soni who has been missing for five years now.
Speaking to indianexpress.com, ADGP Lakra said, “We collect data (photographs of missing children), from FIRs registered across the country and from CCTNS (Crime and Criminal Tracking Network & Systems), and also from track the child portal (https://trackthemissingchild.gov.in/trackchild/index.php). These are about the photographs of missing children. On the other side, we get photographs of traced children from the track the child portal, from the child care institutions across the country, and the women and child welfare department. The software runs and matches the missing and traced children. It gives three-four options.”
Telangana state police department has been using ‘Darpan’ since 2018 and has traced and reunited 23 children with their families as of date. “This tool is developed by us. Even if the child is traced 10 or 15 years later the matrix of the face remains the same. That’s how it works,” she noted. She credited technology as the sole reason for reuniting Som Soni with his family.
The more the data, the better the efficiency of the software. “We are trying to get much data as possible so that as many missing children across India can be traced using the tool,” she added.
The reunion of Shom with his mother Piya was a heart-wrenching moment, according to Rupa Hazarika. Shom was an inmate of Hazarika’s child home ‘Destination’ since the age of 7 years. Recalling the turn of events narrated by Piya, she said Shom was once playing in the courtyard behind their house when he lost his way and got into an autorickshaw near their home and was dropped off at the railway station. Since then, the mother has been looking out for her child, assuming that he had taken a train.
Rupa, who is also a Member of Assam State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, said when Shom was brought to ‘Destination’ at Goalpara in Assam, it was a challenging five years with Shom being a special child with autism associated with severe epilepsy. “As he was a special child, he could not communicate properly. Language barriers made it worse. We could understand that he was from Uttar Pradesh but all that he remembered was his name and the name of his school,” Hazarika told indianexpress.com over the phone from Goalpara. However, the NGO could not locate the school in UP despite efforts.
Shom, according to her, found it very challenging because of the language, environment, and food that was way different from his home. But as time passed, he started adjusting with other children and was being provided special education. Though Autistic children are not quite emotionally attached to parents, Shom, Hazarika said, would unknowingly call out for his mummy and desired to go back home.
“It was a very emotional moment for us when the mother was reunited with the son after five years. She could not stop crying. She had been relentlessly searching for her only child all this while,” she said while pointing out that some parents do abandon their children when they are specially-abled. She thanked Kamlesh Yadav, the Chairperson of CWC Prayagraj in UP, for his efforts in reuniting the child with the family.
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