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Mom sells her mom’s gift to buy phone for child to study

With the lockdown drying up their incomes, poor parents in Odisha are making sacrifices to ensure their kids can continue their online classes
Archita with the phone. Her brother Biswaranjan is beside her and their parents are behind them
Archita with the phone. Her brother Biswaranjan is beside her and their parents are behind them
Telegraph picture

Subhashish Mohanty   |   Bhubaneswar   |   Published 03.08.20, 03:22 AM

A mother sold her lone pair of gold earrings to buy a mobile phone so that her Class VIII daughter could attend her online classes.

A small-time milkman sold one of his two cows for the same reason.

With the lockdown drying up their incomes, poor parents in Odisha are making sacrifices to ensure their children can continue their studies amid the coronavirus-induced closure of schools.

Mason Gagan Bhoi, 45, and his wife Rita, residents of Uttara Bateshwar village in Cuttack district, about 65km from here, said daughter Archita, 13, had “suddenly stopped talking” after her online classes began.

“She was unable to attend the classes because we hadn’t any smart phone. I didn’t know where to find the money for one as the lockdown had reduced my income to zero for three months,” Gagan said.

He said he dared not take a loan because the local moneylenders charged exorbitant interest.

“It was my wife who came to my rescue. She offered to sell her only pair of gold earrings, which her parents had given her during our wedding,” Gagan said.

An emotional Rita said: “We had no choice. The earrings were a wedding gift from my late mother. She had asked me to pass them on to the next generation.”

She added: “It was a tough decision to sell them but we had to do it for our child. We have no income now; we haven’t the money even to repair our one-room hut.”

The family of four receives 20kg of rice a month under the below-poverty-line scheme and another 20kg as part of the lockdown relief.

“Both our children (son Biswarajan, 10, and Archita) are growing up and we need nutritious food for them. At this time, buying a phone was difficult. But my daughter’s future is more important than gold earrings,” Rita said, her voice choking.

The couple sold the earrings to the local goldsmith at a throwaway price.

“I sold it for Rs 8,000 though its market value would not be less than Rs 15,000. But I wanted the money now; I couldn’t afford to wait,” Gagan said.

Archita is happy. “I’m attending the online classes. The teachers send homework in the morning and hold classes for an hour from 11am,” she said.

Ramesh Chandra Das, a resident of Veda Lapatua village in Cuttack district, used to sell 3 to 4 litres of milk in the morning and an equal amount in the evening, earning about Rs 250 a day.

But the lockdown has hit his sales, with many customers unable to afford milk, and dried up the opportunities for day labour that used to supplement his income.

Ramesh was therefore forced to sell one of his cows when daughter Varsha Rani, a Class X student, demanded a smart phone.

“Varsha was crying for a smart phone. She wants to be a teacher and needs to attend her classes. So we sold our Jersey cow,” mother Mamata told The Telegraph.

Varsha, 15, said: “The cow was with us for several years. We used to sell her milk. But my parents sold it for Rs 15,000 and bought me a phone for Rs 12,000. They spent the rest of the money on books and other study materials for me.”

A Jersey cow normally fetches between Rs 30,000 and Rs 35,000 in the market.

“The number of people being pushed towards poverty is increasing day by day. All sources of income have stopped. But parents are continuing to make extreme sacrifices for the sake of their children,” Sudarshan Das, a social activist, said.

School and mass education minister Samir Ranjan Das told this newspaper: “We are aware of these two cases. Once the situation improves, we can think of addressing the issues.”



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