The cold-hearted move of taking away quilts from agitating Education Guarantee Scheme (EGS) teachers has killed a protester's baby girl.
On Thursday, the child who had caught a chill when left to the winter elements during the protest on Sunday night, died in a hospital here. Eknoor Kaur "Rooth" was just 14-month-old and took breast feed alone, so her mother, a teacher, couldn't have left her home at Bambiha village in Moga district.
The teacher had travelled down with husband and child to support the colleagues, who since Sunday, were atop a water tank in protest. "Police warned the owners of all tent houses to not give us quilts and took away the covers we had received from volunteer bodies. Sunday night, the child was without warm clothes and she caught a fever," said the mother, Kirnakit Kaur.
"On Monday, we moved the child to hospital. No one from the district administration came to visit her, not even after her death," said Taranjit Singh, the father. From 3am to 5am on Thursday, when the HT team was at the hospital first and then at a protest site, the officials had still not arrived.
The teachers first laid the body on the road at Subash Market and then marched in protest through the city before blocking traffic at Bus Stand Chowk. They raised slogans against the Punjab government and local parliamentarian Harsimrat Kaur Badal, whose mission Nanhi Chhaan claims to protect the girl child.
"Kuri Maarti (They killed the baby girl)," said a teacher, attacking the state's ruling family of the Badals and the MP's campaign. There was anger also against Bathinda's senior superintendent of police Gurpreet Singh Bhullar, DSP Gurmeet Singh Kingra, and station house officer (SHO) concerned Mahesh, who were accused of resorting to brutal tactics to curb the protest.
Since the district administration was on the back foot, it let the teachers carry on with the protest. Additional deputy commissioner Rajeev Prashar could spare only a few minutes to visit the family. The administration was busy hosting chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and making arrangements for his sangat darshan programme in Bathinda villages.
Last rites on hold
The child's last rites are on hold, since the teacher union and the deputy commissioner are in talks.
Family in struggle
The child's father is a painter who works on daily wages. The mother, who enrolled as EGS teacher in 2003 and, in 2009, joined the elementary teachers training (ETT) course, is unemployed since. The couple, which has no other source of income, has another daughter who is 4 and in grandmother's care since the parents joined the protest.
The baby was shivering when brought to hospital. Dr Satish Jindal, child specialist, who declared the child dead, has confirmed it on the basis of what he found out from Dr Manita, who had admitted the girl. "Since the girl was on mother's feed alone, even though she was almost 14 months, it might have led to multivitamin deficiency that might have caused the brain to sink. Yesterday, parents confirmed that she was better and had resumed taking feed. The sudden death has shocked us," said Dr Jindal. The health authorities haven't specified the cause of death.