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Tuesday, Nov 12, 2019

Uttarakhand SDRF official helps 22-yr-old Bihar man trace his family after 13 years

Shivjan Manjhi had first come to Uttarkashi in 2006, when he was nine years old, along with some other villagers of his village to work as labourer in apple orchards there.

dehradun Updated: Aug 27, 2019 15:28 IST
Kalyan Das
Kalyan Das
Hindustan Times, Dehradun
Shivjan Manjhi told the SDRF official that he wanted to go back home in Bihar, but didn’t know the address.
Shivjan Manjhi told the SDRF official that he wanted to go back home in Bihar, but didn’t know the address. (Sourced )

A natural disaster is expected to cause damage or loss of life – but for Shivjan Manjhi, a 22-year-old labourer from Bihar working in the rain-ravaged Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand, it brought a miracle.

Thirteen years after Manjhi was separated from his family while looking for a job at the tender age of nine, a state disaster response force (SDRF) official who was involved in the relief and rescue efforts helped him track his family back in a village in Bihar.

The SDRF official, 32-year-old Kuldeep Singh Gosain, had gone to Manjhi’s rain affected village in Uttarkashi for rescue work on August 20. Manjhi had then met him and said that he wished to go back to his family in Bihar, but didn’t know where they lived.

“After the heavy rains on August 17 and 18, which caused heavy damages in the villages of Arakot valley of Uttarkashi, we were sent to one of the affected villages named Kiranu on August 20 evening. The next day, on August 21, we called all the villagers to a common place to ask them their problems. Then, Manjhi came to me and said he wanted to go back home in Bihar, but didn’t know the address, and then he started crying,” said Gosain. “I was moved by it.”

Manjhi had first come to Uttarkashi in 2006, when he was nine years old, along with some others from his village to work as labourer in apple orchards here.

“He was small then and used to work in an apple orchard in a village near the Himachal Pradesh border. After about 15 days, the other adult labourers from his village had an argument with the orchard owner over some issue. They all then left one night while he was sleeping in the one room where they were living. They locked the door from outside while he was asleep,” Gosain said.

When Manjhi woke up the next day, he found himself alone in the locked room and started crying. Hearing his cries, the neighbours informed the apple orchard owner about it, who then broke open the door and rescued him.

“The owner, whose name he could not recall, kept him for about 15 days. However he started harassing him, due to which one day he ran away from his place and came to Tyuni village, which is a few kilometres away from there,” the SDRF constable said.

In Tyuni village, Manjhi met one Bhuvaneshwar Chauhan, who gave him shelter.

Chauhan asked him his address and his parents’ name so that he could contact them, but Manjhi, being a child, could not come up with the accurate address.

Not losing hope, Chauhan sent a few letters to the incomplete address Manjhi had given him, but they all came back as the address was inaccurate. Since then, he started living with Chauhan, who later also gave him work in his apple orchard so that he could earn his living.

“After narrating the story, Manjhi told me that he had approached many people to help him find his family, but all of them did nothing except giving assurances. Moved by his story, I promised him that I would unite him with his family by tracing his family and village, no matter what,” claimed Gosain.

When asked the named of his village Manjhi named one Batargi village and his parents’ names as Krishan Lal and Sarita Devi.

“I searched the name of the village on Google, but found none. I then asked him to tell me about any landmark near his house, to which he said that he could only remember that there was an airport near his house and aeroplanes would fly over them,” he added.

Gosain said that as he knew only about Gaya airport in Bihar, he again looked for villages near Gaya airport.

“During that, I found one village named Badheji, which sounded similar to Batargi. I then Google-searched the police station under which it falls and found it. I contacted the police officers concerned and requested them to find his details, on which they told me his family details,” he said.

One of the police officers, who found Manjhi’s address and family, had arranged a contact number of his cousin brother which he gave it to him on Sunday.

“I called that number and asked his cousin brother to connect me to his family members. His younger brother Rohit came on the phone, to whom I then gave the news that Manjhi is here in Tyuni, Uttarkashi. However I could not get him to speak to his brother as I had reached Dehradun from there on Saturday evening,” said Gosain.

To confirm whether he had identified the right family, Gosain asked for a photograph of his brother on the instant-messaging mobile phone application Whatsapp, matched him with Manjhi’s and “found them similar.”

Gosain said that when he broke the news to Rohit, he was very happy. “Rohit said would be more happy when Manjhi will finally be uniting with them. They have said that they would come here to take him back after 3-4 days.”

Despite several attempts, HT could not contact Manjhi, who is still in Tyuni village.

Rohit, his 16-year-old cousin from Bihar over phone said, “I am very happy. All these years, we never lost hope and always believed that we would surely meet him one day.”

“It is said that if you have strong belief in something, God will definitely give you the desired result. This just became evident for me,” he said. “We are seven siblings, including three brothers and four sisters. He was third eldest among the siblings.”

Rohit said they would leave from Bihar to get Manjhi after eight or ten days, once the roads and bridges damaged by floods near village were repaired.