It was really shocking to come across the missing person report of Hijam Somorjit (15), elder brother of Hijam Naobi (12), a hotel-boy based on whom a news article “Interrupted Childhood: need for state intervention and assistance” was published on January 15.
Two days back when this reporter visited Naobi’s locality at Singjamei Wangma Pebiya Pandit Leikai for this follow up story, it was informed that their parents were looking for Somorjit who went missing since a couple of days back. According to localities who do not want to disclose their names, the two brothers were too young to be bread earners of the family.
When enquired about their parents, it was informed that Hijam Naba, the father of the two boys is a government pensioner with a known condition of mental instability whose pension book is believed to be mortgaged. Both parents were described to be of ill health and unable to perform any physical work.
It was also told that the parents- especially the mother, Hijam Hemabati was the kind of person who is overly superstitious, resorting to rituals to address any issue.
The localities were worried as the younger one has already started eating Talab- packed mixture of betel nuts and tobacco and pan. They were worried about their future too.
According to them the elder boy was good in study too and they have the enthusiasm for pursuing further studies, even complaining to their mother for not sending them to school.
The brothers were reportedly disturbed when their mother comes to their work places to take money since they felt it was an embarrassment to them.
There must be innumerable stories like Naobi’s and Somorjit’s who were forced into physical labor by circumstances to eke out a living and look after the family at such tender ages.
Article 32(1) CRC (Convention on the Rights of the Child) recognizes the right of the child to be protected from economic exploitation and performing work that is hazardous or interfering with the child’s education or harmful to the Child’s health, mental, physical, moral or social development. On the other hand, under the Constitution of India, Article 24 stipulates that children below 14 years of age cannot be employed in a factory or in hazardous occupations. The biggest concern in such cases is the sensitivity and the proactivity, or the lack thereof of the state government and its concern department to provide timely and adequate support so that such minors who are victims of circumstances are not denied the opportunities and privileges of living a better life. We would all have been failing in securing the future of humanity if these unfortunate lives are left to fend for themselves, and time is running out for them.
By Reena Nongmaithem