After several instances of the Indian Railways and External Affairs ministry using the social media to help people in distress, border guarding force SSB helped two Ahmedabad residents cross over to India with the aid of Twitter after they got stuck in Bhutan when the border was sealed for the Assembly polls in West Bengal. The travails of Deep Shah and Parth Trivedi began in the wee hours of April 15 when they were told in Bhutan, while packing their luggage for the journey back home, that they cannot cross the Indo-Bhutan International Border as it has been “sealed” in view of the polls. Also Read - Twitter vs Koo: Nigeria government joins India's Koo app after Twitter’s ban in the countryAlso Read - Twitter seeks more time to comply with new rules in response to “one last notice”
The duo said they checked with the Indian Embassy in Bhutan but the “phone operator was helpless” as to how to help them. They found the only way out was by taking a flight, which was too expensive. Shah then took to Twitter and wrote about his problem and tagged numerous official handles of the government like those of Prime Ministers Office, the MEA and Sushma Swaraj, MoS Gen V K Singh, Railway Ministry, Rail Minister Suresh Prabhu, and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee with the plea that he be allowed inside India as they had a train to catch from Hasimara in West Bengal the same evening.
“Mam, we are in Bhutan, we heard that border gate to India is sealed due to election. V have train to catch at @5pm. wouldn’t we allowed to enter our own country? #stuckinbhutan,” Shah tweeted to the WB CM’s handle.
Getting restless after there was no response to his tweets in the early hours of April 15, Shah then tagged Congress leader Shashi Tharoor’s handle seeking help.
“Sir, v r in Bhutan, border gate sealed due 2 election in WB, we need to get back to our country. Pls help,” he wrote to Tharoor.
Tharoor, who was awake, responded: “Attn @SushmaSwaraj this young Indian says he’s #stuckinBhutan bcos border gates closed due to elections in Bengal?” The tweet was soon noticed by Sahastra Seema Bal (SSB) Inspector General Renuka Mishra, at its headquarters here, on her personal ID and she acknowledged that it “Pays to stay up late Happy to help.”
Mishra, who also manages the forces’ Twitter handle @DGSSB, responded to Shah asking “Where exactly are you right now and what is your contact number. Saw your tweet to @ShashiTharoor #stuckinbhutan”. Mishra told PTI that she soon got in touch with the forces’ commanders on the Indo-Bhutan border on the eastern frontier. She was told that the gates have been closed and additional vigil mounted in the wake of administration’s instructions to “seal” the borders before the polling day on Sunday. Soon after, the SSB area commander got in touch with his Bhutanese counterpart and Shah and his friend were asked to report at an official crossing point at the border. They were allowed to cross over after due verification of their documents at about 3pm on Saturday.
“I along with my friend @parthlyright have safely crossed border. Thanks,” Shah tweeted with photographs he took along with his friend and SSB company commander Ranjit Baidya.
The SSB responded with a short tweet in response: “Glad to be of help” SSB officials said they later facilitated many other Indians cross over the border following this for their onward journey into India. The border sealing directions are in place till Sunday evening, they said. Later, Tharoor complimented the SSB and IG Mishra for ensuring prompt help to the youngsters.
“Well done @DGSSB! Such episodes reinforce my belief that social media can do good & in our Govt & security services,” he tweeted.
Officials of the paramilitary force said the duo subsequently took their train to Kolkata from where they had to take a flight to Ahmedabad.
“All is well that ends well. The help through social media is enormous,” a senior SSB officer said.
Shah later admitted on his social media account that when he wrote the first few tweets it was “pretty late in night so not blaming any one!”.