Life for the Khrang orphaned siblings, whose misery has wrung hearts across the state after a local TV channel broadcast went viral about a month back, is now looking brighter with strong support pouring in and the State government taking steps to ensure that they will be protected.
The broken down house which the TV panned is now being replaced by a new house which is being built for them by well wishers who learnt of their plight not to speak of the rations, clothes, household implements and cash money being brought to their house by people visiting them from across the Khasi Hills.
Had it not been for an officially appointed Covid19 induced survey to seek out the ‘poorest of the poor’ in the Khatarshnong-Laitkroh Block to give them support, which unearthed the miserable and down-trodden lives of five-year old Rijingshai Khongsit with her sister Lamjingshai Khongsit (11) and their 16 year old brother, Kupparoi Khongsit, their story would have continued to remain hidden and unknown to the outside world.
The survey was undertaken by the Meghalaya State Rural Livelihood Society, National Rural Livelihood Misson, Khatarshnong Laitkroh Community & Rural Development Department a few weeks ago.
The surveyors were shocked to find these siblings living on their own in Khrang Village in a broken down house with the 16-year old boy doing his best to feed and care for his two sisters. He had left school and taken to daily wage labor working for meager amounts as long as he was paid. Not that their plight was unknown to their village authorities, clan members and neighbors.
A visit to the village revealed that they had lost their mother about four years ago. Their father had taken care of them for two years after the death of their mother and got married away from the village and could not look after his children anymore.
The children were then looked after by their eldest brother, Blasson Khongsit for till he too took a wife about a year ago away from Khrang leaving the kids in the hands of the 16-year old Kupparroi, who the surveyors found valiantly struggling his family together.
It was only after the survey that the media came to know about the orphaned family of kids after which a lot of questions were raised about their situation and why they were left on their own like this. The State government sought a report from the district child protection officer and other officials in the social welfare department.
When asked about this, the Rangbah Shnong of Khrang, Newsonroi Shabong told Highland Post that they were aware of the plight of the children but that they did not know how to go about helping them as it was a sensitive case. “Yes these kids were there, but what could be done, we just could not figure it out. All we could do is ensure that they were safe. For food their relatives around here and neighbors provided them rice,” he said.
“It’s not that we were not aware of all this, it is just who to turn to for help or advice and how to handle this situation,” said Bitalin Shabong and Tehlang Khongsit, both local ASHA workers who had been doing their best to look after the kids. As they said it is a sensitive case wherein non-family members would find it difficult to authoritatively step in to take decisions.
Basically, they were all waiting for the clan members to take the initiative to take the responsibility of the children.
On November 13, the newly appointed Chairperson of the State Commission for the Protection of Child Rights, Iamonlang M Syiem, visited the village to confer with the local elders about the future of the siblings.
After consulting with the Rangbah Shnong, the ASHA workers, Blasson and the clan members, the decision was taken to keep the two girls in the local convent school with the sisters to look after them. Kuparroi who told the chairperson that he would also be happier finishing his schooling will also be going to the same school run by the Catholic sisters where his sisters will be living from now on.
The chairperson told Highland Post that she was happy that a sponsor had miraculously offered to support Kuparroi’s schooling.
“When that child told me he also wanted to go to school, I was wondering how to get this done and now we have a sponsor,” she said.
She also said that she was happy with the ambience of the Khrang village which seemed safe and protective about the orphaned family. She was even gladder that the two sisters would be staying in the institution located right in the village. “There’s nothing better than for the children be able to stay within their own village where they are rooted. Taking them away to some other place would be too sad and I’m so glad that their clan elders agreed to let them stay in the institution here and not somewhere else,” she said.
They will not feel so lost as their brother will be staying at home in the village and coming to school every day where he would see his sisters, she pointed out.
Among other visitors that day were the Mothers Wing of the Hynñiewtrep National Youth Front (HNYF) led by their president, Rita Jyrwa, and office bearers Victoria Marwein and Phriensibon Kharmuti. This is their third visit to see the children. They have contributed household items, blankets, mattresses and other things after they learnt of children’s troubles and saw their poor condition on the viral video by a local TV channel.
Another group of visitors were four young people who had come only because they shared the same clan name ‘Khongsit’.
“I came from Rangblang and my friends here are from other villages because they are from the same clan as us,” Larisha Khongsit said. She added that they had given them a small amount of money as a token of their support and affection. They will surely come again, she said.
The total population of Khrang is 508 with about 106 households. It is 25 kms from Mawjrong.
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