Carried on his father’s shoulders for 30 km through hills and forests from Doonga village in Samba district of Jammu & Kashmir, an ailing nine-year-old died before they could reach the nearest medical facility in Mansar.
Mohammad Haroon, 28, who belongs to the nomadic Bakerwal community, said he had to walk because he had no currency notes to pay travel fare. He had Rs 29,000 in old notes but failed to exchange them in two J&K Bank branches — the managers of both branches said they would have given him the exchange had he approached them and told them of his urgency.
Along the way with his son, Haroon negotiated a ride but the driver eventually refused to accept his old notes, forcing Haroon to discard the highway for a shorter route through forests.
Haroon’s son Muneer, a class II student, died Friday night. Samba district magistrate Sheetal Nanda has sought a report on what he went though. Sumb naib tehsildar Kuldeep Raj Goran police post in-charge Nanak Chand visited Haroon Monday and recorded his statement. Nanda told The Indian Express she is yet to see their report but felt Haroon’s visits to the bank are not the reason for his child’s death.
Haroon said Muneer fell ill on November 14. On the first day, they tried giving him black tea mixed with local herbs. When they decided to take him to Mansar, Haroon found he had only Rs 100 or Rs 150 in smaller notes besides the Rs 29,000 in Rs 500s and Rs 1,000s. He said over the next three days, he first trekked 8 km to J&K Bank in Khoon, then spent his change travelling to J&K Branch in Ramkote and back, but his turn never came in either branch. He has an account in both.
On November 18 afternoon, Haroon lifted Muneer on his shoulders and, along with his wife Rafiqa, began the walk. They trekked 9 km on hilly terrain before reaching the road at Khoon around 8 pm.
“We came across a van driver and requested him to take us to Mansar. He asked for Rs 1,000 and we agreed, but when I showed him my Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes, he refused,” Haroon said.
“So we decided to walk a shorter route through forests,” he said. They reached a doctor, whom they named as Dr Manik Chand, in Mansar around 5 am Saturday. The doctor declared the boy already dead.
The managers of both bank branches Haroon claimed to have visited said they have had enough cash at their disposal “since day 1” to cater to visitors seeking to exchange or withdraw.
“We are still going home at 10-10:30 pm,” said Raman Gupta, J&K Bank Branch manager in Khoon. He said they have disbursed nearly Rs 30 lakh and collected Rs 3 crore during the last 10 days. From the Ramkote branch, manager Rajinder Kumar said they have been disbursing Rs 8-10 lakh a day despite theirs being a small branch. “Had he come to us, we would have exchanged his old currency notes in view of his urgency,” he said, an assertion made by Gupta too.