Her eyes drooling, sun tanned skin and a frail physique, she looks every inch a malnourished woman who has lost the zest for life but dragging it for the sake of her kids.
Holding the two minors, Jagdish Hansda, 5, and Anjali Hansda 3, she walks out of her house to a nearby market to buy some eateries, but the choices would be limited as she only has a Rs. 10 note in her possession.
“I could not go to work for the last two days as there is no job for me in the market. The little savings are draining away. Every next day brings a new set of challenges for me,” said the 25-year-old, widow, Balli Hansda, resident of New Colony, Musaboni, once a flourishing copper town in Jharkhand’s East Singhbhum district. Balli ekes out a living by working as a farm labourer.
Her husband, Mangal Hansda, 28, was a special police officer (SPO), who worked under the banner of a local anti-Maoist vigilante group, Nagrik Suraksha Samity (NSS) raised by the Jharkhand police in 2003. He operated in Dumaria and Gudabanda blocks, which are still among the worst Maoist affected blocks in the country.
For nearly a decade, Mangal chased the Maoists along with the forces and led them to major achievements. This made him the rebels’ ace bete noire. Maoists torched his house, uprooted him from his village and forced the family to settle in nearby Mosabani town.
But death kept lurking on his head. On January 24, 2015, the inevitable happened when Maoists avenged the damage done to them by the young SPO by shooting him dead near his house. Two years hence, it is a niggling journey for his widow and two kids sans the bread earner.
“My husband used to say that if he died fighting the Maoists, the government would take good care of me and our children. If he was alive today, he would have shed tears of blood looking at our deplorable condition,” Balli said holding the tears that swelled into her eyes.
Balli is one of the 17 women, whose husbands were enrolled as SPOs and died fighting the Maoists in Dumaria and Gudabanda since 2003. At least two others died bachelors.
While the government compensated few of these widows with money and jobs, there are many who were dumped. Let alone jobs, they are still to get a penny to run their kitchens and raise children.
The women allege that when their husbands were alive, senior police officials often patted their backs for their credulous work. The moment they died, the officers declined to recognize their sacrifices and care for their families.
Raimat Kisku, 48, is widow of Late Dhanai Kisku, NSS founding general secretary under whose able leadership, NSS eliminated at least 20 hardcore Maoists, sans any police help.
Raimat says the police top brass then was so happy with his performance that on his recommendation, 36 NSS volunteers were enrolled in the police department.
“On October 18, 2014, Maoists cornered and killed him. Since then, my daughter and I are surviving on the paltry Rs. 3000 remuneration the department gives to SPOs. I do odd jobs to supplement the income to pay for my daughter’s school and tuition fees,” said the anguished woman, who is running from pillar to post for the elusive job on compensatory grounds she so much deserves.
When Maoists shot dead NSS volunteer, Raghunath Kisku in 2014, he had three minor school going children. His widow, Parvati Kisku gets Rs. 3000 per month, which is not even regular, to run the family.
“I am fortunate that my two elder children are getting free education in residential schools, courtesy Ram Krishna Mission. I break stones, till fields to run the kitchen and feed my younger daughter, who stays with me and goes to a good school,” Parvati elucidated.
“Strange are the ways of functioning of the government. It gives jobs, compensation to surrendered Maoists whose hands are soiled in the blood of several innocent people and have often indulged in anti-national acts. On the contrary, it utterly ignores people who have laid down their supreme sacrifices in the nation’s interest,” said NSS vice-president, Shailen Baskey, who survived five Maoists bullets but had to run for his medical expenses, which have still not been cleared completely.
“Minor issues like proper death certificates, second wives and pending criminal cases have delayed the grant of compensation to families of few slain NSS volunteers,” said local DSP Ajit Bimal.
ADG special branch Anurag Gupta said at least 90% of them have got compensations, and rest would get soon.