Orphaned at 13, he sweated for days at a construction site in Bundu, a few kilometres from his native Getildih, to feed three younger siblings at home. Destiny had better plans for Jholu, now 14.
"I always wanted to study. I am glad I will," said the Class VI student of Rajakiya Anusuchit Janjatiya Awashiya Vidyalaya when asked how he felt about the Rs 10 lakh largesse from the state. His 10-year-old sister, Radhika, has a dream diverse. "I will not go to a residential school. I will study here, in the village, and raise my little brother Sakra (who is three years old)," she said.
Ever since their father, Turia Munda, hanged himself to death, on February 4, 2008, frustrated over not being paid in full despite having laboured for days under the Centre's flagship rural job scheme, Jholu and Radhika grappled with poverty to look after brothers Puswa (7) and Sakra.
Their mother, Tara Devi, had died of malaria three months before. Jholu ran errands and worked at a construction site to get the family at least one square meal a day while Radhika mastered the art of running a household with lesser than little.
The test of sustenance came to an end when villagers of Getildih and relatives came up to help. Budhni Devi, the elder sister of Tara Devi, decided to take charge of youngest Sakra and Radhika and took them away with her to neighbouring Haldibera village.
Jholu and Puswa were admitted to the residential school at Amanburu, 5km from Getildih. And just when they had given up hope of a life better than this, the governor's advisory council announced the relief package.
"We appreciate the state's gesture," said 54-year-old Budhni Devi, her eyes moist. The savings account opened in a bank to fund the children's education has, however, failed to stop the elderly woman from worrying. "Raising children at my age is a daunting task. The youngest doesn't even know he is an orphan. Though plans were to admit Radhika to Kasturba Gandhi Awashiya Vidyalaya in Pusu, the girl chose to remain with Sakra." Budhni Devi's brother and the children's uncle, Mongulu Munda of Kokradih village, will look after the bank account till the four become adults. "That is a solace," she sighed.
Neighbours who remembered Turia as a diligent worker said they wanted to help the children but were too poor to do so. "Turia was employed to dig a pond under National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) in the village. But the administration never gave him his dues. He had no money to feed the children. His death did what he could not do in life," said Shivjan Munda, a resident of Getildih, commenting on the state package.
Vism Mahto, a leader of CPI-ML(Liberation) that has taken up the cudgels to get Turia justice, said: "Money alone will do no good. We want action against officers responsible for driving the NREGS worker to death."
Turia's children are still lucky to have got relief, albeit late. The kin of Tapas Soren, another NREGS worker who immolated himself a month after Turia because he, too, did not receive his wages, are still awaiting justice in Churchu, Hazaribagh.
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