A sense of gloom prevailed over the Garo Hills region of Meghalaya a few weeks ago, following the death of a 19-year-old boy Cheangku Momin, who died of tuberculosis and starvation on September 4, 2020. The story of this boy touched the hearts of many people; they prayed for his recovery, and also donated large amounts of money for his treatment. This incident caught the eye of many, after a journalist named Biplab Dey posted about this on social media, seeking help for the poor boy.
Below are other posts on social media by Biplab that pertain to the collection of donations for Cheangku’s treatment:
His post had a tremendous impact on the people, following which an overwhelming support in the form of financial aid started pouring in from every corner of not only Meghalaya, but also the world. There was a ray of hope that Cheangku would recover and survive, as enough donations were collected for his treatment. But the financial aid seemed to have reached a little late, and the boy succumbed to his illness.
Earlier during the lockdown period, the entire country was reeling under restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic and earning even a penny during such trying times became next to impossible for many. People had to lock themselves within the four walls of their houses and every door to even lend to a helping hand seemed shut. The boy and his family were one among those who had to remain isolated and were badly impacted by the pandemic.
With only rice to eat at home, the 19-year-old started facing health issues. Sensing the financial burden that his treatment would bring upon his family, he refused medical treatment and chose to stay at home. His condition deteriorated with each passing day. The young boy was an able student who had scored good marks in his SSLC examination and showed signs of a promising future ahead. But alas! Something else was in store for him.
As his condition began to deteriorate for the worst, his friends came to know about his situation and took him to Tura Civil Hospital, where he was found to be in an extremely impoverished state. The medical staff tried their best and worked their fingers to the bone to save the boy, while on the other hand, Biplab continued to give daily updates to people on Cheangku’s health condition, garnering whatever support he could. But just after a few days of being admitted in the hospital, the boy breathed his last and lost the battle of life.
There are many factors that plague humankind and in times like this, where you battle an invisible enemy, stories like those of Cheangku Momin have brought people and society together for financial support. In times of a crisis situation, where people are clueless about when this crisis will end, the people of Garo Hills stood together for a common cause — to save someone’s life. Garo Hills, thus, proves that ‘humanity still exists and if we stand together as one, a lot can be done for the needy and underprivileged and another Cheangku-like situation can be avoided from happening. Even though ‘poverty’ gripped this young boy, the overwhelming love from the people will always keep him alive in the hearts of many.
The heart-wrenching story of this boy has not only brought people’s attention, but also given us a lesson that this worldwide pandemic is just the most recent enemy in our battle of life that can be prevented by compromising with certain habits or through a vaccine. But for enemies such as poverty and unemployment; do we have a cure?
What about the people who have been reeling under it for years? What about those who toil every day but are able to earn only for a hand-to-mouth existence? In these trying times, who will be the hope of people like Cheangku? Several years have passed, but the scenario remains unchanged. The tag of “the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer” sounds clichéd, but it is rather a bitter truth.
According to a Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United States report titled The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, 2020, 189.2 million people in India are undernourished. In the Global Hunger Index 2019, India ranks at 102 out of 117 countries on the basis of three leading indicators — prevalence of wasting and stunting in children under five years, under-five child mortality rate, and the proportion of undernourished in the population.
The question here is: how many people reportedly die of starvation every year? We will probably never arrive at an accurate figure, as very little emphasis is given to the uncountable deaths caused due to starvation. While we are all busy counting the few deaths caused by Covid-19 pandemic, people like Cheangku are refusing medical aid to be able to afford few square meals a day, while inching closer to death, every single day!
The lockdown imposed by the government is meant to save lives of people from the dreadful Covid-19. But for a few, the pandemic itself has made life so difficult that surviving the virus is pointless as poverty and starvation would kill a person first.
The voice of the marginalised is seldom heard and perhaps, every voice crying out their plight will suffer the same fate. They won’t even be counted as annexures since they aren’t celebrities or do not stand in a position of power, where people would light diyas or candles for them.
Support and assistance are always appreciated, but in Cheangku’s case, all efforts went down in vain as it was too late. Let us be aware of our surroundings and not hesitate to help whoever needs our assistance. As it is rightly said by Nelson Mandela, “It is in your hands to create a better world, who lives in it.” So let us reach out and make a difference in our own unique way!
About the author: Preetty Chambugong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.