The would-be mother cooks lunch with her feet in an improvised tent next to Jagannathpur police station in Ranchi on Friday afternoon. Picture by Prashant Mitra
Right next to Ranchi’s Jagannathpur police station, under a plastic shade, lives a 17-year-old girl. Born with deformities and eight-month pregnant following a sexual assault, she is the defenceless victim of an unkind fate and an impassive government.
Even four years ago, the girl claimed she had a fairly decent life with her family at Mausibari. But, the canker of poverty prompted her parents to abandon her in May 2008. Misery has been her sole companion since.
Born with dwarf hands and having studied till Class III, she found herself not competent enough for any work and took to begging outside the Assembly. Life would have somehow dragged on, but for a certain December 2011 night when she was sexually assaulted by a youth who had befriended her.
Hers may not be a unique case of deprivation and torment. What calls for attention is the indifference of a state that has over 400,000 special people, but no rescue or rehabilitation policy for them other than a monthly pension of Rs 400, which more often than not doesn’t reach the real beneficiary. The teenaged would-be mother is among the unlucky ones.
The pertinent question here is where does a disabled and heavily pregnant minor go for help? For, there is no state shelter for her and her ilk.
“Bhagwan garibon ke saath hamesha bura hi karte hani. Pehle gharwalon ne chhor diya, fir kuch logon ne mere saath galat kiya aur ab mujhe pata nahi aage mera kya hoga. Main bhi dusri ladkiyon ki tarah likhna-padhna chahti hun… thik se jeena chahti hoon. (Bad things always happen to poor people. First, my parents abandoned me. Then, I was sexually assaulted. And now, I don’t know what more is in store for me. I wish to study like other girls… I only wish to live a normal life),” she said.
Shanti, an official of Jamshedpur-headquartered NGO Adarsh Sewa Sansthan who first spotted the girl a couple of weeks ago during one of her field trips to Mausibari, pointed out that every day, hundreds of people including government officials and ministers pass by her to go to Project Building.
“There is also a police station within a few metres. But no one bothers about a girl who is disabled and pregnant. They see her cooking and eating with her feet in this condition and yet have the heart to look away. Her parents visit her at times, but only to grab all the money she earns begging,” the NGO official added and claimed that they had sought help from police a couple of times, but in vain.
Unable to garner support for the girl from police or administrative quarters, Shanti approached Jamshedpur-based NGO Astitva who broached the matter with the disability commissioner.
“The torment the girl is facing is a glaring example of human rights violation. Every one, irrespective of their social status, has the right to live. We want the district administration to shift her to a proper shelter. We also want police to track down and punish the culprit who made her pregnant,” said Sulekha Aikat, general secretary of Astitva.
Disability commissioner Satish Chandra confirmed that he had been apprised about the destitute girl. “I have told my officials to first find out why pension did not reach her. Later, we will see what more can be done, as it is a very sensitive case,” he said.
“The biggest problem in our state is that we don’t have a shelter for disabled people, especially for abandoned and abused women. I will take up this matter with the government. Homes should come up in every district,” he added.
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