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ME POWAIKAR November 2018

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3 year old girl lost but found
in the nick of time

The 9 day long festival of Navratras where the female cosmic power of Shakti is worshipped in the forms of Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati just ended few days back. These goddesses, incarnations of the Mother Goddess Shakti signify power, wealth, prosperity and knowledge. Maa Durga is always depicted as a fearless Goddess whose legend revolves around good winning over evil. 

Kalaratri considered the most ferocious form of Goddess Durga is revered on Saptami the 7th day of the Navratris. It is on this very day that a simple Gujarati Jain family underwent the worst ordeal of their lives. Their 3 year old daughter boarded the school bus early in the morning to get to her prestigious school. Eyes still drooping with sleep, the little child dozes off and doesn’t get off when the bus reaches school. Neither ayah nor driver or attendant notice the baby sleeping and the bus moves on to Nehru Nagar in Kurla, a very busy neighbourhood where the driver leaves for some personal jobs. The child wakes up half an hour later and finding herself alone in an unfamiliar environment, starts crying. Somehow she clambers down from the big bus and terrified at being lost in the middle of Mumbai’s crazy peak hour traffic howls even harder. A kind-hearted Samaritan finds her wandering and seeing the child in a school uniform all alone in the middle of the road, takes charge of the situation. He checks her ID card and calls the school and the parents. 
The mother assumes someone is conning her because she herself had put her baby on the bus. Therefore according to her, she should be in class. She calls the school inquiring about her daughter but is curtly told the child is in class. So the relieved mother heaving a sigh of relief takes it easy. The school does the same till they realise the child really isn’t in the class after which it takes the school authorities over two hours to reach the spot to look for the child. By this time, the father too received the call and rushes there. Thanks to the gentleman, this story ended on a happy note. It is one of the rare stories where the child is re-united with the family but it is frightening to imagine the consequences if the child had fallen in the wrong hands. Maybe it was the hand of the Maa that did not permit anything untoward to happen to the girl child in the period when the parents were fasting and praying to her.

The school claims to have installed CCTV in the school bus which beams video transmissions to the parents in real time. Apparently in this case, the system had failed and there was no recording of that day. Education today has been reduced to a lucrative business. As schools get more sophisticated, hefty amounts are spent on infrastructure without actually monitoring them. Nobody monitors the CCTV cameras nor is any footage stored. When things are outsourced accountability gets diluted.

Not surprising considering that schools hire buses without any due diligence on the drivers etc. The angry parents are demanding answers. To satisfy them, the school plans to sack the driver. Isn’t that the easiest thing to do? It’s always the person at the lowest rung of the chain whose head has to roll in all such cases. Does this absolve the school authorities of their responsibility of taking care of the wards we entrust to their care? A mother takes a big leap of faith when she waves to her children as they find a seat in the school bus, or a flying kiss or a smile from the school gate. And that is what she holds on to till she sees her precious children later in the day. Most schools claim to conduct background checks when recruiting staff yet insiders like peons, teachers, helpers etc breach these systems and untoward incidents do occur.
For families who trust a school to look after their child for the better part of the day, there are many loopholes which bothered a concerned father and he developed an ID for his little daughter that monitors an individual in real time, 24/7, pan India because even the so-called safe and prestigious schools are not really safe. 
Had this child been carrying this safety device, the parents could have been spared much agony.

When sending kids to school, the least you expect is that they will be home back safe and not found in the washroom with throat slit, while the lunch box is still not cold... 

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