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Police Track Children During Holy Hindu Pilgrimage

The two-month event, which attracts up to 50 million pilgrims, can lead to children being lost, so police are using an RFID-based solution from Vodafone India to help them—and guardians—keep track of young people.
By Claire Swedberg
Jan 16, 2018

Every year, millions of pilgrims visit Sabarimala as part of a holy Hindu pilgrimage, one of the largest attended events in the world. During the pilgrimage—a ritual trek of a mountainous trail to a temple, attended by between 40 and 50 million people—children can become separated from their parents or guardians. Such incidents can be traumatic for both the children and the adults with whom they are traveling, as well as time-consuming for police officers dedicated to keeping the pilgrims safe.

The Kerala State Police are using passive high-frequency (HF) RFID technology provided by Vodafone to help protect the children. The system enables the agency to keep an eye on kids under the age of 14 so that none of them end up missing during the annual Sabarimala yatra (the procession of pilgrims).

The pilgrimage, which dates back to the 12th century, takes place at the Periyar Tiger Reserve, located in India's Western Ghat mountain range. It requires some climbing by those who attend, both young and old. To reach the temple, worshippers must trek to the top of the hill at an altitude of 4,133 feet. The temple is open for worship only during the Mandala Pooja ritual, which is practiced throughout November and December. Since women between the ages of 10 and 50 are not permitted to participate, there is a lack of motherly supervision for the children who take part.

The path has become highly developed, offering emergency shops and medical aid for those who require assistance. In some cases, elderly or disabled pilgrims hire men to carry them to the top on a bamboo chair. The path is typically crowded as well. So within this environment, children can become separated from those watching over them.

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