Https://tinyurl.com/j34w22v9 Many people cried when they saw the death of professional horses in Cox’s Bazar during the lockdown. For the time being, a company came forward in the famine of horses and saved their lives. Thanks to them. However, just as there are no lampposts without lamps, so there are no horses without horsemen. Numerous children on Cox’s Bazar, Kuakata, Patenga or St. Martin’s beaches used to feed themselves and their families on a daily wage. What is their condition now? It is a matter of the soft heart of the middle class to get emotional when they see an unfed horse. But can we allocate some emotion even to children who have become human horses while starving?
Talking through local contact with three orphaned children in St. Martin. Zaheer’s (12) father died when a tree fell on him in a storm. Wasim (11) has no memory of his father. He died while fishing in the sea 9 years ago. Jewel’s (10) father died as an expatriate worker in Malaysia 3 years ago. The first was a day laborer before the lockdown, the last two were selling onions or eggs or tea on the beach. When he could. All three were not eating at noon on Thursday.
The child named Farooq (9) who used to sell plums on Cox’s Bazar beach, the Nur Mohammads (10) who used to carry passengers at the wharf in St. Martin, or the people who used to sell cucumbers or jhalmuri on the beach, can they eat now? I have visited Khulna, Cox’s Bazar, Teknaf, St. Martin, Char Fashion. I have noticed that many children are involved in tourism or fishing in these places. I found out that most of their fathers have left their mothers. Many of the fathers died while fishing in the sea. The father-abandoned children all had the same sadness in their voices, ‘Dad doesn’t want me’ or ‘Dad doesn’t take me’.
Why do fathers leave their children or abandon them altogether? They said their father had moved to a big city like Chittagong or Dhaka because there was no work in the area. Many have stopped communicating there, many have remarried. They no longer have the time or ability to look at the child of the old world.
The dark side of Bangladesh’s economic development then caught my eye. Unprecedented speed of economy and communication has come in Bangladesh. This has increased the intensity of internal migration in search of work. Millions of people are going far and wide for work. Most of them are engaged in the garment industry. Apart from this, people from the north come to Dhaka and its surrounding districts to cut paddy. Some never return. Many live together as garment workers cannot afford housing. A section of women build houses with male workers in the interest of safety and economy. These marriages can be called emergency marriages. There is a lot of risk for a single woman to rent a house or walk on the streets. In that case, such a marriage is the real way for them.
But many marriages do not last. Either the man moves to another area for a better job, or he goes back home. Many people can no longer hold on to the bonds of temporary marriage. The children of these marriages are thus fatherless. In some cases it has been found that the mother may have moved in with someone else. The child then grows up with the grandmother and at one stage goes out to earn money to take charge of the family. I have seen in Char Fashion that many boats sink every year due to storms. Those who do not return, their widows are in great danger with their children. If a boy has a child, then his future is child labor.
Some of these children, who lost their childhood due to the multifaceted beatings of life, go down to the beach to entertain the travelers. They also drive the horses of Cox’s Bazar, they sit behind the riders and hold the reins of the horses. Prothom Alo’s report also spoke about starving horses as well as these orphaned or fatherless children. But we only saw the pain of the horse, how many children saw the burning sensation in the stomach? And let no one see, the concerned departments of the government including the district administration could have searched for them. You will give lockdown, but why not give compensation to those who are in need? And if those starving children are children, then ignoring them is inhumane.
PS: The Ibtedai and Qawmi madrasas contain the bulk of these poor and orphaned children. There are about 14 lakh students in Qaumi. Most of them find it difficult to provide food for their families. Those who have a home or address may have moved into a lockdown. But how is their stomach going there? Where are the orphans who have no one or where are they now, how are they spending their days? Can anyone hear the SOS message of their hungry stomach?
Farooq Wasif is a writer and journalist.
Read more: The world of orphans and street children: Dad doesn’t want me https://tinyurl.com/caexc52v