In the times of modernity these kids instead of studying are in the forests collecting firewood! Should not be the case but it is!
They are small, they are beautiful, innocence sparkles through the eyes, the cute smile giving a different charm to the environment and with small hands and feet they help out their mothers by collecting firewood so that the fires can be lit up in their kitchen for the preparation of rustic but delicious meals.
As they wake up early in the morning with a tiny yawn on their mouth pieces and then rubbing of the eyes, their mothers wash off their face as ours do, clean up their enamel, oil up their hair which is subsequently combed, have their small tummies filled up and off they are for the routine into the jungles of collection of firewood.
This is not what they should be doing but that is what destiny has scripted for them.
These little angels should be at home studying but that is not the case since for that interest is required and in Dagwar, District Poonch that is not so the case.
Dagwar is close to the LOC, the area is forested and the educational system has yet to make its presence felt here.
Had the fully functional system been existent these kids would not have been early in the mornings out hunting wood in the times when development of children especially the girls child is to the forefront.
These villages of the area above mentioned are not aware of many things that are happening around in the world and the reason for that is, the administration has not yet catered for this.
At the most it is the Indian Army that looks after them as and when they are in a problem but otherwise they are on their own moving ahead with smiling faces in this beautiful countryside.
It’s time that areas such as Dagwar are embraced by the administration as Indians also live here and deserve what the others are getting.
It was drizzling a bit as we drove along the Dagwar road through the jungle. The landscape was awesome with the raindrops looking as fresh as ever. The drive through wilderness did give me and my friend a creepy feeling but it was still fun as we drove on through the mystery ridden woodlands. There was not a soul to be seen till we found two small girls, one shorter than the other, smiling as we moved by only to stop a few meters ahead. My friend who was on the wheel while applying the brakes asked me, ‘what’s the matter, everything alright’. I just replied to him with a smile, ‘pal I have a story at hand’! Sure enough I had one but the start was not good because seeing me they panicked, a child’s reaction on seeing a stranger is typical of this. I could make out that they wouldn’t talk as I did try to get into a conversation with them in the local dialect. A smile was what I got from the elder one but the smaller one kept looking at me with awe as I clicked a few photographs of theirs. Thereafter they turned back to leave but I stopped them. I shoved my hands into my pocket and pulled out a fist full of sweets and started walking towards them and after reaching stretched out my arm to hand over the toffees. They took them and in a flash buzzed off, looking back time and again. I stood and smiled and thought that in my childhood, I too did that on seeing someone I had not seen on the forlorn road to my home!
This made me get into some fleeting thoughts, as to why these kids, so small, were doing all this? Obviously their parents did not have any idea as to what was happening in the country. Girl kids are given some special privileges in the scheme ‘Beti Padhao, Beti Bachao’ (get the girl child into the schools and therefore save them).This indeed was no way of doing so. I met only two but I know there are several others from their category in District Poonch. Now this is for the administration to see but frankly admitting people are not aware of these small but important facts.
Now why should they be out collecting firewood? Pradhan Mantra Ujwala Yojana (PMUY), Prime Minister’s Lighting Scheme was launched by Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi on 1 May 2016 to distribute 50 million LPG connections to women of Below Poverty Line (BPL) families. A budgetary allocation of Rupees 80 Billion was made available for the scheme. Later on in the year 2018 Union Budget of India, its scope was widened to include 80 million poor households. In February 2021 the scope was widened further. Now these people in Dagwar are not all well off. Had they been they would not be living on firewood which the children collect. Did the concerned Department check out on this? I’m sure they would not have or is it that there are different rules for people staying on LOC? About this I’m definitely not sure, but they should not be!
What I want to say is that these kids have to be given a chance to shape their childhood and it cannot be if the children do what they are doing in this picture. Instead of dry firewood they should be carrying books. Their parents were not that lucky and could not study since they belong to a generation which was always under constant fear of the unknown as others were in district Poonch but now times have changed so these children should be on the staircase of education and this is the age to get on with the first step. The administration has to help them out especially the education department district Poonch which as always is in a mute mode.
Smiling faces of little girls are the signature of God’s presence. In District Poonch there are many but these small little stars on earth have to be developed and incidentally the same can happen provided someone sitting on a chair takes the requisite interest. At the moment none is to be seen. Therefore it becomes the duty of the administration to think about them and hopefully they will do so now!