Once again Twitter came to the rescue of Indians in distress on foreign shores when border guarding force SSB helped two Ahmedabad residents cross over to India from Bhutan. This was made possible with the help 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 15 April 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.
The duo said they checked with the Indian Embassy in Bhutan but the "phone operator was helpless" as to how to help them. Their only option left was taking a flight, which was too expensive.
How Twitter helped
Shah then took to Twitter and wrote about his problem and tagged numerous official handles of the government like those of Prime Minister's 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 he and his co-traveller had a train to catch from Hasimara in West Bengal the same evening.
Getting restless after there was no response to his tweets in the early hours of 15 April, Shah then tagged Congress leader Shashi Tharoor's handle seeking help.
Tharoor, who was awake, responded:
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.
Shah tweeted photographs he and his friend took with SSB company commander Ranjit Baidya.
The SSB tweeted 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 until Sunday evening, they said.
Later, Tharoor complimented the SSB and IG Mishra for ensuring prompt help to the youngsters.
-With agency inputs