KOLKATA: The West Bengal government is using a citizen utility mobile phone app to help locate Durga puja revellers who get lost during pandal hopping and tackle the issue of human trafficking, West Bengal minister Shashi Panja has said.
The city police had last year launched the 'Bondhu' app to help people lodge grievances and alert cops at Lalbazar control room in case of any danger by pressing the panic button.
Several incidents have been reported in the past when people, visiting the city during Durga puja, were lost in the crowd and later spotted by the police, who helped them return to their families, she said.
"There are instances when people deliberately leave behind their children or old parents by taking advantage of the huge number of people visiting the pandals during Durga puja," the Minister of State for Women and Child Development and Social Welfare told PTI.
Unattended children are also vulnerable to fall in the trap of human traffickers during the festival, she said.
"Keeping in mind that people do not get lost and fall prey to the human traffickers, we have decided to take help of the Bondhu app to help those lost in the crowd to reunite them with their families," Panja said.
In fact, after an understanding with the Kolkata Police, the department has arranged for eight decorated child-friendly vans in each of the eight divisions under the police jurisdiction, Panja said.
"The vans will rush to the pandals after receiving message about any person or a child getting lost from their family members in the crowd," she said.
As part of their initiative, directions have been given to puja committees to keep on making announcements about such incidents, the minister said.
Quick response team, stationed nearby, would be alerted to trace the missing children, distressed women or senior citizens.
Besides, the Kolkata Police emergency number 100, child helpline 1098, women helpline 1091 and missing persons' helpline number 9002999999 would be available for the five days of Durga puja festivities, the minister said.
"A number of homes for women and children have been made ready to extend services during the Durga Puja celebrations," she stressed.
An official of the Women and Child Development and Social Welfare department said kiosks have been set up at Rajballavpara near Jagat Mukherjee Park, Sealdah and Mudiali areas in the city to provide first-aid, water bottles, dry food, soft toys, sanitary napkins and wheelchairs.