"Though hundreds of thousands had done their very best to disfigure the small piece of land on which they were crowded together, by paying the ground with stones, scraping away every vestige of vegetation, cutting down the trees, turning away birds and beasts, and filling the air with the smoke of naphtha and coal, still spring was spring, even in the town."
"The sun shone warm, the air was balmy; everywhere, where it did not get scraped away, the grass revived and sprang up between the paving-stones as well as on the narrow strips of lawn on the boulevards. The birches, the poplars, and the wild cherry unfolded their gummy and fragrant leaves, the limes were expanding their opening buds; crows, sparrows, and pigeons, filled with the joy of spring, were getting their nests ready; the flies were buzzing along the walls, warmed by the sunshine. All were glad, the plants, the birds, the insects, and the children. But men, grown-up men and women, did not leave off cheating and tormenting themselves and each other. It was not this spring morning men thought sacred and worthy of consideration not the beauty of God`s world, given for a joy to all creatures, this beauty which inclines the heart to peace, to harmony, and to love, but only their own devices for enslaving one another".
The above paragraph from the novel 'Resurrection' by Leo Tolstoy reminds me the grim situation faced by the ill-fated children of Baghwanala area. The Full Time Center at Baghwanala is situated on the bank of Varuna River. Varuna River has converted into sewage due to pollution and it goes down to river Ganges which is just few Kilometers away from the Center. Most of the families, whose children attend the Center, belong to the most disadvantaged dalit groups and these families are socially assigned to do the works that are considered ritually unclean and socially degrading.
So called modern development in India and in the city of Varanasi has not only done nothing to make the lives of these weaker sections of the society better but has further aggravated their sufferings by marginalizing them. This mode of modern development has given more opportunity for powerful people to make more money and the rush for making more and more money had done the misdeeds in terms of marginalization, deprivation, exploitation and abuse of essential rights like food, clothes, house and education of these communities and has paved the way their enslavement last longing.
These poor children like colorful flowers, with their lovely and innocent smiles seem to challenge our cunningness and to put to shame our very existence against all boastings of national development. These poor children, though ignorant of their cruel surroundings and devils deeds to enslave one another, are dreaming amidst all odds to become a teacher like their own teachers at the Centre or if they could get a respectable job for themselves, when they are grown up.
Jyoti, a girl child is a student of class 5 at the Centre. She has two sisters and two brothers. Jyoti belongs to a Scheduled caste family. Her mother Parvati works as maid servant in three houses. She washes pots, clothes, and work as a sweeper in those houses every day in the morning and evening. She earns Rs. 300 from each house for a month and thus she earns total Rs. 900 in a month. Jyoti's father is rickshaw puller and earns Rs 2000 for a month at an average. So for six persons in the family of Jyoti, total earning is almost Rs. 3000. So Jyotis's parents can spent less than Rs. 20 for each member of the family for a day. But Jyoti family is deprived of Below Poverty Line (BPL) ration card so that they could be able to get benefit PDS system and could buy food grains at subsidized rate. Her family holds a Yellow ration card that belongs to a family, who is considered to be Above Poverty Line (APL). Whenever any member of Jyoti's family get sick they visit a private doctor as there is no government facility regarding health care is available in her vicinity.
Even then Jyoti is an always smiling girl and has a peculiar shining in her eyes and has a dream to become a teacher, like her own teacher at the Centre. I asked Jyoti's mother Parvati if she had thought to continue her education. She replied that she would do her best to continue Jyoti's schooling. But she was not sure if she could support her daughter for her schooling up to the high school. Though, Jyoti had earlier told me that her parents asked her not to go to school, as they could see no purpose of sending her school. She also had told me that her parents wanted her to learn sewing. Jyoti is also eagar to learn sewing.
Jyoti class starts at 10 am. When I met with her at the Centre in her class and asked her if she had come to school after taking her breakfast at her home. She told that she had not taken her breakfast at home. Further she told that she would go to home at about 2 pm at the time of recess at the Centre and then she would take her lunch. She also told me that as her mother worked in other houses so she was solely responsible to cook food for her family everyday and to wash the cooking pots and to do other chores at home.
Sanno bano is a student of class 5 at the Centre. She belong to Muslim community. She has 4 brothers and 6 sisters. Her father is literate and has studied up to eighth class. Her mother is not literate and can not read and write. Sanno's three younger brothers are also studying at the Centre. Sanno's father's name is Sirajuddin and her mother's name is Lalunnisha. Sanno's father works as a tailor at other's shop. Her two elder brothers also do the work of tailoring. Sanno's father and two elder brothers earn almost Rs. 4000 in a month.
Sanno's family lives in Baghwanala almost 500 meters away in the east from the Centre on the bank of Varuna River. I visited her home along with Sanno and her two other classmates at the Centre. There is regular path to go to her house. They go their home passing through a open land which is always full with human wastes and it is not easy for an outsider to pass through that open land without keeping his finger on his nose. The smell while passing through this open land is so stinky that it is virtually hard to bear the bad smell and one can not escape the feeling of vomiting without closing his nose.
But for Sanno and her other two classmates there was nothing unusual to pass through the open land with full of human wastes and with acutely stinky smell. After passing through the open land I reached to the Sanno's house and I found that more than a dozen of men were shouting and abusing to each other as they were gambling with playing cards few meters away from Sanno's house. I asked Sanno if those men were gambling regularly there. She told me that it was every day business of those men. She also told me that in the area one could find other places with other groups gambling in the area.
At Sanno's home I met with her father, mother and brothers and talked with them about their economic conditions and their interest in education of her children. Apparently I found that they were not opposed to educate their children but they also expressed concern about their poverty that is biggest obstruction to continue the study of their children. As one can see that there is family of 12 members is surviving on a monthly income of Rs. 4000. It means that Sanno's parents can not spent more than Rs. 20 on each member for a day. Sanno's weight is quite disproportionate in respect of her age and length. She is a tall and beautiful girl and wants to do M.A.
Her mother told me that she had a yellow ration card which is delivered for a family belonging to Above Poverty Line (APL). Though Sanno's parents have no land to cultivate or there are no other means to raise their living standard but even then they are deprived of the welfare schemes for the poor and it has been aggravating their miseries and depriving their children of their fundamental right of education.
Jeba is student of class 5 at the Centre and she belongs to a Muslim family living in Baghwanala area. Her home lies 700 meters away in the west from the Centre. Her parents live in a rented room. Jeba has four brothers and a younger sister. Jeba's two elder brothers do not go to school and her two younger brothers are too young to go to school.
Jeba wants to study up to B.A. and want to become a teacher like her own madam who is teaching her at the Centre. I found her wearing dirty clothes as it was not washed for many weeks. But she always wears very beautiful and shining smiles on her face as seemly unknown to her parent's abject poverty. She is enthusiastic girl for her study. She was so eager to take me her house to meet to her parents.
I visited her home in the afternoon. At her home I found her mother talking with a person about her case regarding tenancy. I came to know that Jeba's parents had been living in that one room house for last many years but the land owner wanted them to forcefully dispossess from the house and thus she was compelled to fight the case in the Court to retain her tenancy. She told me that her lawyer used to take money from her to deposit rent in the Court but after she two years she had received a notice from the Court that she should deposit her rent which was due for two years. There is no facility of electricity and water in the Jeba's rented house.
Her father and mother both prepare shoes and sandals for a manufacturer. They jointly earn almost Rs 3000 for a month and it hardly enough to meet the expenses for her family. Jeba's mother told me that she had a yellow ration card which is delivered for a family belonging to Above Poverty Line (APL) category. She requested me if I could do something to get for her a BPL ration cards so that she could be able to purchase food grains at subsidized rate.
Kanchan also belongs to a scheduled caste family and lives in Baghwanal area with their parents and she is student of class 4 at the Centre. Her father Mr. Rajesh Sonkar sells green vegetables on a trolley and could hardly earn Rs. 2000 for a whole month. Kanchan has two brothers and a sister. Her elder brother studies in class 5 at the Center and a younger sister also attend the Center. I visited the Center two times within a week but for both times Kanchan elder brother was absent. I asked her why her brother was not attending the school. She told me that he had gone to market to buy vegetables for sale. Her elder brother does not go to the school regularly as he goes with his father to help them in his work. Kanchan's father and mother are illiterate but they want to educate their children but they have no idea how far they can help to educate them.
Kancha parents also hold yellow card which is for Above Poverty Line (APL) families. Though Kanchan's parents are very poor but they do not have BPL ration card so that they could buy food grains at cheap rate. Kanchan's parents are also deprived of health facilities. In case of health problem they are bound to visit private doctors, who spare no time to exploit them further.
Manish is student of class 5 at the Center. He is a relatively bright student in his class. Manish belongs to a backward class family. Manish has three brother and two sisters. His two elder brothers work at a shop as painters and earn a little money and they bear the responsibility to feed their other members of the family. Manish's father used to work as a skilled laborer in building construction but he fell from a height at about 5-6 years ago. He survived but has not able to work anymore. Her mother also died last year in the month of February after some minor illness. Due to lack of money she could have not received proper medical treatment within time.
I asked Manish if he was interested in his study. He replied " I want to study but there is a little chance that my brother would support me for further study". He feels disappointment that owing to poverty he could not continue his study after passing the exam of fifth class at the Center.
It is widely accepted by the international community that human rights are inalienable and interdependent. In the case of these ill fated poor children of Baghwanal area, which are facing squarely deprivation and violation of their right to education is no exception of it. They live in unimaginable unhealthy and unhygienic conditions, they have no means of nutritious food even at its minimum standard and they have extremely hard and tough life to continue their study as to get even least favorable or supportive environment to develop their personality as a human being.
The much trumpeted welfare schemes for the poor have no more effect than the hollow slogans for these poor children and their families. The parents of these poor children are deprived of food grains at subsidized rate under the scheme of Public Distribution System, these families have no viable health facilities on the part of the state and in this area there is no government school so that these poor children could be provided with facilities of elementary education for free of cost. Almost all children attending the Centre have disproportionate weight of their body against their age.
Though most of the children attending the Centre want to attend their classes regularly, to play with their other classmates and to chat with them but it is not possible for them as they are required by their parents to help them in their work to earn bread for themselves. In different seasons these children are employed by their parents in different works. During my visit to the Centre, I learnt that 30 to 40 per cent children do not attend the school regularly because of their involvement in other works at home.
It is extremely relevant to mention that Sir Dorabji Tata Trust has contributed greatly to the children of the area by making it possible for them to access their right to education free of cost. It is also relevant to mention that the commitment of the local human rights organization like PVCHR has been successful to bring about a big difference in terms of awareness of community towards right to education of their children. The teachers/activists working at the Center do hard work to inspire and convince the guardians and parents of these poor children to send them school regularly. These teachers go everyday in the area to take the children to the Center. These activists are not only fully aware of their duty but to the fact that right to education of poor children in the area is not an isolated issue. It is very much related to the other issues like poverty, social stigma, illiteracy, ignorance etc and they are trying hard to do whatever they can do in such limited resources.
By:Shiv Prasad Singh(Adv.)LLM(Human Rights)