Himachal Man Sells Cow to Buy Kids a Phone. What Price Will Online Classes Extract From Poor Indians?

Social Commentary

Himachal Man Sells Cow to Buy Kids a Phone. What Price Will Online Classes Extract From Poor Indians?

Illustration: Mitesh Parmar

The coronavirus pandemic has dealt a severe blow to people’s economic prospects. Things fundamental to life, like food, education and healthcare have also seen compromises. People have walked hundreds of kilometres to get home, been desperate in search of food and have done whatever they possibly can to ensure their kids get education and proper healthcare. In an incident that has come to light from Gummer village in Jwalamukhi, a poor man was forced to sell his cow (his only source of income) for ₹6,000 so he could buy a smartphone for the online studies of his two children.

Kuldip Kumar’s children Annu and Dippu study in class IV and class II respectively. Since the lockdown in March, schools have been shut and online classes are the norm. To keep up, there was pressure on Kuldip to arrange for a smartphone for his children. He approached banks and private lenders, but no one would lend him ₹6,000 because of his poor financial condition.

Teachers told Kuldip that he would need a smartphone for the children to continue their studies. He said he didn’t even have ₹500 and that arranging ₹6,000 would be quite a task. When all efforts to arrange money failed, he sold his cow for ₹6,000 and bought a smartphone for his children.

MLA from Jwalamukhi, Ramesh Dhawala said he found it shocking that a man had to sell his cow to buy a phone for the sake of online studies of his children. He said he has directed the BDO and SDM to provide him financial help immediately.

Social media users expressed both their anger, and grief over this tragic story. Some people asked for contact details so they could personally help with donations or courier a smartphone. At least social media has been at the forefront of helping those in need, when these cases make it to the news.

Some asked the pertinent question of whether policy makers had factored in families without smartphones?

Are we just leaving some people behind?

The bitter truth is that the pandemic has exposed our systems and infrastructures around education and healthcare.

Spokesperson for the Congress, Nivedith Alva pointed out how many people didn’t have jobs during lockdown and yet are being expected to pay full fees for education. How will they afford it?

If there’s something we’ve learnt from the pandemic, it is that our systems have failed to take care of the most vulnerable in society. Whether it is in relation to jobs, education, or healthcare, as a society, we must ensure that nobody is left behind.