Tarun Gupta still missing for over a month, growing concern over safety of children with disabilities
17-year-old Tarun Gupta, a Mumbai teenager with autism, has been missingsince 1 October. His family and police officials have been unable to trace the youngster who has speech and visual impairments as well. A CCTV garb from Panvel railway station shows Tarun crying and asking for water to a railway official who hurriedly bundled him to a Konkan-bound train. The incident has sparked outrage amongst parents and disability rights groups across India who are raising safety and security concerns of people with disabilities. This is our #StoryOfTheWeek.
Questions regarding Tarun Gupta whereabouts remain unanswered. The 17-year-old with autism, went missing from near his home in Mumbai on 1 October. He was last spotted at the Chiplun Railway Station in Ratnagiri, Maharashtra, after he was misled into taking the wrong train by a railway official at the Panvel station.
The police and Tarun’s family have been working together to find the youngster, who has visual and speech impairments as well, but there’s now news. This raises concerns about the safety and security children and young adults with disabilities. If the railway official had shown some concern and made efforts to connect Tarun to concerned authorities, he would have been back home by now.
CCTV footage from Panvel railway station shows Tarun crying and asking for water from the official who hurriedly bundled him into a Konkan-bound train. That is how Tarun ended up at the Sawantwadi station from where he took a Jan Shatabdi back to Mumbai and got down at Chiplun. Tarun’s family had reportedly done an extensive search in all these areas but that did not bear any results. The family is hopeful that Tarun will return.
“We do not plan to file a complaint against the official now because our priority is to look out for Tarun”, said his father Vinod Gupta. “We will not leave any stone unturned to ensure that our son is back home safe and secure”.
Seema Lal, co-founder of the parent support group TogetherWeCan says the incident is among the darkest fears felt by caregivers and family members of people with disabilities.
Tarun got lost right in front of his house. After knowing about the incident, parents that I know are now considering whether kids with significant communication problems must have identification bracelets or tags with them all the time. So during an emergency they can point at it and seek for help. I also feel kids must be trained or given role plays on what they can do if something unfortunate like this happens to them. But more importantly, there must be an awareness about disabilities amongst public. Only that can help. – Seema Lal, Co-founder, TogetheWeCan
Parent support groups from across India have come together to widen their networks to bring Tarun back home. Groups in big cities have stepped up to do their bit. Most of the parents say that this could happen to any family including theirs. Every year, there are hundreds of cases of people with disabilities going missing. But most of them safely return back home. “This case shows how insensitive and ignorant we are as a society towards kids with disabilities”, says Trupti Patil, Founder, Aarambh school, which is in Pune. “When a child with special needs wants help, people must be ready to offer it. Instead, most of them prefer to mislead or mock the person. Spreading awareness has become need of the hour.”
Many people have taken to social media to share the news about Tarun. Others criticised inefficient and ignorant officials who clearly lack awareness about disabilities. “Tarun Gupta on my mind. 50 days missing and still no FIR online”, posted Chennai-based disability rights leader Vaishnavi Jayakumar. The days are an ominous reminder of how critical it is to find this young boy.
If you have relevant information that may help Tarun’s family, call +91 98196-10512.