We all have been avid fans of stories of people (or aliens) with super-human powers, who save the world a day at a time and bring smiles on people’s faces. Just like Batman is to Gotham City, you could be one to that kid banging his fist on your car window while you appear to be oblivious to his/her condition.
Many of usÂ have that moment of guilt and sympathy when we see a girl begging in the streets with her baby brother in tow or the little guy serving chaiÂ somewhere. Well, here comes theÂ saving grace in the form of an app, for all of us who want to “do something” for these children. The founder of this app was inspired owing to his own experience of almost being kidnapped. He was lucky to beÂ saved by a stranger inÂ the nick of time. Instead of letting it become just a memory to re-visit, he immortalized it into aÂ project known as Helping Faceless.
What is it?
Helping Faceless is an app developed by Shashank Singh and Amol Gupta that uses technology to help combat child trafficking and kidnapping. The idea is simple: click a picture of the child you see and upload it on the app. With the help of these pictures, aÂ search process is initiatedÂ in order to match them with theÂ previous records; all of this is handled by the app itself. If a match is found, they forward this information to non-profit organizations who then help connect these children with their families.
While there are several legislations and enactments in place to fight against child trafficking, it is an evil that fails to die. The Child Labour (Prohibition and Prevention) Act, 1986 (amended in 2006), Immoral Traffic Prevention Act, 1986, Sections 361, 363-A, 367, 369 of the Indian Penal Code (deal with kidnapping of minors) etc. are present to provide relief to such children and their families- but the dialogue “kanoon ke haath lambe hote hain”, remains a mere filmy lineÂ evading its culmination into the real Indian society’s frame. This isÂ an app to address the woes of those families that lose their children and lack any aid from the authorities.
The founders of this amazing app are Shashank Singh, a Computer Science graduate (hence the techie-solution to the sociological problem) and Amol Gupta. They have received quite a few offers by national and foreign organizations to help them locate missing children. No wonder the responses to it have been manifold, as such an agenda is not only noble, but also an efficient recourse for citizens to assist in this search of children by means that are accessible to all.
According to Shashank, it is an “an 8 month-old initiative, with the project in Mumbai already underway”. Currently comprising of 4 team members and 20 active volunteers, their Mumbai part of the project is running effortlessly with positive reception from the populace and authorities alike.
He further adds about their future plans by saying,Â “We are already in talks with NGOs in Kolkata to get a pilot project up and running, with the help of the Kolkata police”. They are planning to extend this ambitious venture to the national level once they see their pilot projects running actively in metro cities.
I was lucky enough to have a chat with Shashank, for exploring more of what Helping Faceless is and how it’s all working out. Here’s a short excerpt:
What have been the most difficult tasks in making this a success in India?Â
1. Finding a model of financial self sustainability
2. Acceptability among established organizations in this sector.
3. Child-rehabilitation is a complex issue.
4. Drug addiction among few children on street.
5. Suspicion among children on streets. They, rightly so, don’t trust everyone.
What has been the response of law and orderÂ officials to your initiative?
They have generally showed interested in the idea. We are talking to an NGO that will be giving a demo of our technology to the Kolkata police. We are cautiously optimistic of the situation.
How many children have been successfully re-located/helped?
We have been able to help 3 children directly or indirectly. It’s a rather recent initiative still taking shape so the numbers are not too high, but we are proud of them.
How long does it take to match the pictures that have been uploaded with those in yourÂ database?
It depends. The time ranges from 10 minutes to a few days. We have some unmatched photos that are waiting for counter-photos from our volunteers. So there is a chance that one of you will upload a photo of a child who needs help and we will get a match in these un-matched photos, effectively getting us into action.
What about the people, how do they generally respond to this app?
People love our idea and are willing to help in whatever capacity they can. If nothing else, we have been able to increase awareness about the issue. So, many young people now look at this issue with a more humane outlook.
The app has definitely showed positive outcomes and is somethingÂ that our countryÂ requires urgently. But it largely depends upon the public to make it a reality. So go ahead, instead of waiting for change to occur, be the one in-charge by initiating it. You can be a kid’s own Superhero by joining hands with the program! The ball’s in your court now. Don’t ponder, act!