Missing for eight years, man from Odisha rescued in Chennai

A view of The Banyan’s holding centre in Kovalam

A view of The Banyan’s holding centre in Kovalam   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

When Vanitha Rajesh and her colleague were going around Chennai as part of their outreach programme at around 6.30 a.m. on July 18, they noticed a young man, walking barefoot near Kovalam.

“We immediately stopped and engaged in conversation with him -- asking him where he was from, and if he needed any support. He looked tired and told us he hadn’t eaten in a while,” said Ms. Vanitha, who is the deputy director (Tamil Nadu Chapter), The Banyan, an NGO working in the area of mental health.

What would soon pan out over the next few weeks, was a story of hope and joy with the police and staff from The Banyan coming together and reuniting a family.

Anjar Singh or Golu, as he called himself, was taken to The Banyan’s holding centre in Kovalam where over the next few days, the staff there attempted to establish a rapport with him and find out more about him.

“Since he could speak only in a dialect of Odiya, there was a communication barrier. But from what he said, we found out that he hailed from Nuapada district in Odisha. We were able to contact the local police station in his village and spoke to them about Golu since he had mentioned the name of his father to us,” said Keerthana Rajagopal, lead, The Banyan’s Emergency Care and Recovery Centre in Chengalpet.

The police there assisted them and were soon able to trace his family, who were elated when they heard that Golu had been found in Chennai. “The family members told the police that he had gone missing around eight years ago from the village. The family said they weren’t sure if he had a mental health issue. We are also trying to speak to him further to find out what he was doing in Chennai,” Ms. Keerthana said. The Banyan staff aren't sure of his age yet, and say that he might be in his twenties.

While the initial days of the lockdown made it tough for them to carry out their outreach programme, The Banyan has been able to continue their work with regard to rescuing and rehabilitating homeless persons while adhering to safety norms and following precautions. Golu, and others who have been rescued over the last few months, are at their 12-bed holding centre in Kovalam.

Staff from The Banyan have been going on rounds around the city and its outskirts and have met with around 75 people. Not all of them want to come with the staff to the centre and prefer to accept clothing or other necessities which are given to them.

“With the help and support of the Greater Chennai Corporation, we have been able to carry out our outreach. Anyone who is brought into the centre here is immediately tested for COVID-19 and we inform the Corporation as well as the Health Department. So far, we have taken in 14 people and all of them have tested negative,” Ms Vanitha said

Over the last two weeks, Golu has been speaking to his family every day over the phone and they’re extremely keen to have him back home.

“Once the restrictions on transport ease, we will help facilitate either the family’s travel here or his travel back home,” she added.

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Printable version | Sep 24, 2020 8:53:14 PM |

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