| Puali Gogoi.
Telegraph picture |
Jorhat, Sept. 13: The lack of a home for the destitute in the district has led Prajnalaya, an orphanage-cum-school in Titabar to take in a septuagenarian, fending for himself in the streets of the sub-division.
Prajnalaya’s orphanage home Astha, which can barely feed its 11 orphans, now has an extra mouth to feed — 70-year-old Puali Gogoi.
“This is in keeping with its founder Jugal Bhuyan’s motto of service to children and the downtrodden,” the secretary of the managing committee, Prabudh Basak, said.
Prajnalaya had begun its mission to provide a home and education to orphans and economically deprived children in 2002. Though in dire straits at present, it did not shut its door on a destitute.
Located at 56 Saraipani Grant, a remote area under chief minister Tarun Gogoi’s home constituency of Titabar, the school has 154 students of which 34 stay in the hostel.
Of these 34, 11 are orphans or have been deserted by single parents, usually mothers, who cannot afford to fend for them.
Basak said, “Earlier, when food was cheaper, it was easy to feed them all but now we can hardly put meat, eggs or fish on the weekly menu. So they have to make do with a vegetarian diet.”
Basak said since Bhuyan passed away in 2007, the orphanage and the school, Prajnadeep, have been facing problems and are barely able to make ends meet with funds drying out.
“For the most part, kind-hearted people bear the expenses of the children’s education by paying for books, uniforms and other essentials but when it comes to buying food this is increasingly becoming hard to bear, especially with soaring prices,” he said.
“The support given by NRIs living in America stopped as the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act came in the way,” Basak said.
Bhuyan’s elder brother Pradip recalled how Jugal had toiled manually to collect funds for construction of the school building and the home on a plot of land left to him by his grandmother.
To this was added Rs 50,000, donated by a friend Bittu Gogoi, and Rs 5 lakh given by the chief minister to build a concrete hostel for boys.
Recently, the school hiked the hostel fees from Rs 800 to Rs 1,000 per month but this cannot be afforded by all.
The premises also has an orchard, which has some orange and banana trees and knee-high grass.
“In order to keep the orchard clean and out of bounds for cattle, one or two persons will have to be employed but we cannot afford this,” Basak said.
Despite the constraints, Puali Gogoi, who was staying in a roadside bus shed, was brought to Prajnalaya and given shelter.
“I lost my parents when I was young and my land was sold off by unscrupulous people without my knowledge. I am grateful to Prajnalaya for giving me a home and food,” he said.
Vice-principal Hemo Lota Dhondia said the teachers were almost doing volunteer work. They are paid between Rs 1,500 and Rs 2000 after two or three months.
“We are facing shortage of funds as we do not get government funds and are solely dependent on school and hostel fees and the largesse of our well-wishers,” she said.
The school is, however, buoyed with one of its students, Rubul Gogoi, an orphan, passing in the first division with letter marks in two subjects in this year’s matriculation examination.