It may come as a surprise, but a poor family in the BJP-ruled Himachal Pradesh had to sell their cow, a substantial source of income, for just Rs 6,000 to buy a smartphone so that their two children could stay connected with online studies amid the COVID-19 lockdown.
Considering the fact that the cow is regarded as holy and often referred to as a mother in the rural setup, the sacrifice cannot be described as small by any means.
The man — Kuldeep Kumar — belonging to the Scheduled Caste lives in a dingy cowshed at Gummer village in Jwalamukhi tehsil, Kangra district.
His daughter Anu and son Vansh are studying in Class IV and Class II, respectively, in a government school meant to serve the economically weaker section students, who are entitled to free education.
As the schools across the state started online classes in the wake of the pandemic, his children do not have a smartphone or internet connection to keep up with online learning.
“I purchased a smartphone for the children to continue the study,” Kumar, from whom the Right to Education Act holds no relevance, told IANS.
“I was feeling bad that I could not afford a device for my children so that they could attend online classes.
“So I decided to sell one of my cows for Rs 6,000,” an emotional Kumar said.
He earns his livelihood by selling milk and his wife is a daily-wage earner.
Before parting with the cow, Kumar and his family knocked on banks and private lenders to get a loan to buy a smartphone.
“With the switch from classroom teaching to online education, teachers are putting pressure on us that if you want to pursue education for your children, you have to buy a device. With no means of getting a smartphone with our meager means, we finally decided to sell a cow,” he said.
Now, he has the lone cow to support his family.
His struggle now is that the smartphone cannot simultaneously support the education of two children.
He foresees constant fights between them to attend classes.
Kumar is deprived of getting the benefits meant for the poor.
He is entitled to get government privileges meant for Below Poverty Line (BPL) families or under the Integrated Rural Development Programme (IRDP).
“I have applied for financial assistance for the construction of a house and inclusion of my name in the IRDP and the BPL schemes, but failed to get due to red-tapism,” he rued.
When local BJP legislator Ramesh Dhawala was apprised about the poor financial condition of Kumar, he assured to extend government help.
“I have asked the BDO (Block Development Officer) and the SDM (Sub-Divisional Magistrate) to provide financial help to him immediately,” he said.