October 11, 2021 2:49:09 am
“Mai mazdoori karta hoon, lekin tum log zaroor padhna (I may labour, but you must surely study),” Virendar Paswan would tell his four daughters and two sons before leaving his home in Bhagalpur, Bihar, for Kashmir in September 2019.
Last week, the paani puri seller was gunned down in Srinagar, one among several civilian killings that have shaken the region.
Paswan was cremated in Srinagar against his family’s wishes. They got no support in transporting his body to his home village of Jagdishpur in Bhagalpur.
“I wanted to see him one last time. But no one from the district administration approached us,” said Paswan’s wife Putul Devi.
The Bihar government later announced compensation of Rs 2 lakh to the family. They have not received it yet.
“Some politicians have come. Even if we get compensation, it is of little help. My husband is gone forever. Had Bihar offered him a job or a small business, he would have been with us,” she said.
His elder son Vikram Paswan told The Indian Express: “My father would also make sure we study hard and not take up manual work. Everyone goes to school in my family. It is now my job to ensure that no one in my family turns to labour like my father.”
The Class 11 student recalled how his father had left a job as a machine operator in Kolkata in 2017 as he had not been able to meet growing expenses of his family. “With his savings of years, he bought an auto-rickshaw at Jagdishpur but it did not work out,” said Vikram.
He again left for Kolkata in 2018 only to return in 2019 to Jagdishpur, where the family owns a house but no agricultural land.
It was compulsion that forced Paswan to go to Srinagar.
Some 30 people from the village had been working in Kashmir and asked him to accompany them. With no job prospects at home, Paswan took the advice.
“He would earn Rs 12,000 per month before lockdown. But after the pandemic, his income shrank and he would send Rs 15,000 after a gap of eight months. We still managed,” said Vikram.
Paswan was supposed to return home this Dussehra. Six other village residents working in Srinagar have also come home, said Vikram. “But they will return to Srinagar. There is no work here.”
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