Shambhu Mandal (center) of Gumhiraya Prawaha VDC-4, Saptari with his family in front of his house. Along with him six members of the family are visually impaired.
RAJBIRAJ, Jan 7: Shambhu Mandal, 50, did was born with a defective eyesight though he could see. Later, he completely lost it. He was never taken to a doctor as the family was too poor to afford medical intervention.
Unfortunately, he is not the only family member that is deprived of eyesight. His brother Shiva Narayan, 45, Shiva Narayan’s wife Geeta Devi, 40 and their eight-year-old son Bhupendra are all blind. Apart from that Shambhu’s sister Jayakala Devi, 42 is blind, too.
As Jayakala Devi could not get a normal person to marry, she was married off to a blind again. All of them live in a joint family making six in the family visually impaired. With children included, the family has 16 members altogether.
“Our miseries cannot be expressed in words. All the elder members are blind. They cannot do even household chores properly. This disease has been affecting children as well,” lamented the head of the family, Mandal.
The Mandal family’s house does not have proper wall. The roof made of corrugated sheets is all torn. Warm clothes and blankets are not seen anywhere in the small rooms. These days, they are using straw as bed and blankets to keep themselves warm.
“We have two huts but none of them has proper wall or roof,” said Shambhu. “We bear everything since we are used to it, but I feel so bad for our small children.”
Shambhu’s brother Shiva Narayan never dreamt big for himself. He felt that ‘he was not that fortunate’. However, the same condition of the son Bhupendra gives him deep pain. “I used to think at least my son would see this world, but he turned out to be equally unfortunate person. I can’t help myself but cry whenever I think of his future,” Shiva Narayan said. “What would this innocent child do when we as his parents could not even arrange for his eyes’ treatment?”
Due to family rifts, four children of Shambhu, three children of Shiva Narayan and three others of Jayakala live separately. The only person who helps these blinds is Sakumaridevi, Shambhu’s wife. Even Sakumaridevi falls in the category of disabled, though not blind. She had burn injuries. She was burnt when she was just 10 and because of it she never developed breasts. Apart from the breast, some other body parts also do not function properly.
“Small, low paying job is all I get. Though I work throughout the day, I cannot earn enough for this huge family,” said Sajumaridevi, the lone bread winner of the family.
Shiva Narayan’s wife Geeta feels that life has become an insurmountable challenge to struggle with.
“We have become beggar. Whenever neighbors show their generosity, we eat or else, we starve. Where to work, how to earn for living this life?” asked Geeta. “If the state showed little kindness, may be our life would be different,” she said with a glimmer of hope on her face.
In elaborating on the ways the state could help the family, Geeta said that they would benefit if they are provided with the red ID cards. Bearer of a red ID cards is entitled to full disability allowance. “We are very poor people who turned blind because we could not afford treatment. Why can’t we get the red ID card?” asks Geeta.
Shambhu, Shiva Narayan and Jayakala used to receive disability allowance and other facilities meant for blind, until two years ago. Suddenly the government stopped it.
Popular known as ‘blind family’ in the locality, the Mandal family has reached out to many government offices pleading for the red card which guarantees bigger support and allowances. However, their pleas have not been heard so far.
“We have been given green card. And they are offering nothing to the green card holder. Earlier we were getting some allowance without any card. Later they said it is a must to produce red card to get the facilities,” Geeta said.
Harram Yadav, VDC secretary of Gamhariya stated that the allowances were stopped to the persons like the Mandal family members because they possess green card. “We were ordered to provide allowance to persons bearing red disability ID cards,” he said stating that he cannot do anything to help them.