Mrunal Manmay Dash

India observes Children’s Day on November 14. While it means merrymaking and celebrating Jawaharlal Nehru’s birthday for most children, there are some underprivileged kids in Odisha for whom the day is just another day of toil and struggle to make ends meet.

Such kids neither know the significance of the day nor do they have any interest in celebrating anyone’s birthday unless it helps feed them and their family for the whole day.

There are some children too, who despite having an interest in studies are forced to drop out of school to help their parents make money. Their life, an endless struggle, starts from the very beginning, right from childhood.

Three orphaned siblings from Belagaon under Nabarangpur’s Jharigaon block have opened a 'tiffin' stall in their village. While the eldest brother operates the stall, his younger brother and sister help him manage the stall.

They were left on their own after their father died five years back and their mother eloped with another man leaving the children alone.

“I do not have any money to spend on studies of my siblings. I dropped out of the school after class five. My priority is to feed my siblings, and all my time is spent doing that. I neither have money nor time to send them to school,” said the elder brother, Sanjay Banjara.

Prachi Shabara from Shagada village under Rayagada’s Gunupur block has a similar childhood. Her studies have been closed for good after her parents left her alone to go to some other State to earn money as a migrant worker.

“My parents are working in Andhra Pradesh. I am staying with my aunt. They visit me once in a year,” said Prachi.

There are a lot of such children who have dropped out of school due to poverty. While some are forced to toil as daily wagers, some are left at home alone by their parents. And despite a slew of government schemes, they are languishing at the bottom of the social security and education system.