Miss Jasawanti Mahanand speaking at the Gala Function organised by American India Foundation at Los Angeles on 07 Mar 2015.
She was rescued by Lokadrusti from the menace of ‘Migrant Labour’ problem in Western Odisha and now she is pursuing her degree after completing school. There are many such cases which Lokadrusti has taken care of.
Her story in her own words as follows-
Revered ladies & gentlemen,
Namaskar, good evening,
I am Jasobanti Mahanand, a beneficiary of the AIF LAMP programme presently pursuing my graduation programme at Sinapali College, Sinapali. I thank you and the America India Foundation very much for honouring me this evening and having given me this opportunity to share my feelings before you. I hail from a very poor family of Bramhmaniguda village under Sinapali Block in Nuapada district on the western part of Odisha. My parents are migrant labourers. They have been migrating since the last 17/18 years. Like my parents most of the households of my village are migrant workers. More than 90% households of our village are below poverty line. When I was barely one year old my parents started the journey of migrant labourers to arrange a square meal for the family. My mother recollects that it was truly a difficult time for the family. My starving parents had to accept advance payment to go on migration as they could not provide me with minimum food. I am well associated with the agonising tale of distress migration since my childhood. I used to migrate with my parents until I was eight. Tears come down from my eyes when I remember those days. My mother says when I was five years old I fell down in a well at the brick kiln site. I was rescued in a senseless condition after 10-15 minutes. My work in the brick kiln was to flip the half-dried bricks. Once while doing so I was stung by a scorpion and it was terribly painful for me.
In 2005 Lokadrusti with the assistance of AIF started seasonal Residential Care Centres in my village and I stayed there along with my friends. Initially I felt lonely and scared. But its environment, affection of the teachers and the friendship of my mates helped me to adapt in the changing situation in the later part of my life. We all friends used to stay, play and read together. We took nutritious food four times a day. We called the cook as Cook Mother (Randhuni Ma). She loved all of us. She equally loved us, the Harijan (SC) children like other children.
I received my first lessons at the Residential Care Centres managed by Lokadrusti. I learnt numbers, alphabets and later lessons from here only. I still remember the happy faces of my parents when they found me healthy and in a good condition at the seasonal hostel after coming back from migration in the first year after leaving me there. They thanked the teacher a lot. I stayed in the Seasonal Hostel continuously for four years and passed class VII.
When I was in class VII my mother did not migrate and stayed back in the village to help me in my study. This decision of my parents helped me and my younger sisters to continue our study. I passed my class X examination with good percentage due to the opportunity of support class for secondary level I availed at the LAMP programme. Thereafter I completed my class XII from Sinapali College and presently continuing my graduation course from this college only. I use to cover 12 kilometres everyday by cycle.
I am proud to say that 10-12 girls like me are regularly going to study in class XII. Most of them are LAMP beneficiaries. Today all children in the age group of 6 to 14 years have been enrolled in school and are regularly going to read. The School Managing Committee of our village has been managing the Seasonal Residential Care Centre for the children of migrant parents with the assistance of the government. During this year 40 children are staying in this centre and pursuing their study.
I thank you and AIF for all the help and compassion extended to thousands of migrant children such as me. I also thank Abani sir for continuously trying for the progress of study of children such as me. I extend my good wishes for his noble endeavour.
Thank you all once again, namaskar.