Angou, the juice seller: A desperate boy with a tragic history

IMPHAL,8th Sep: There are individuals in the society who could be seen working hard braving all odds, desperate to earn some daily income to support his/her family at a tender age with nobody left in the family to care for self or siblings. One such individual is a 13-year old boy, who sells sugarcane juice braving the harsh summer heat with a mobile manual juice extractor fixed on a handcart along the Yourabung–Lamlai Road. Anybody, who comes across the innocent looking boy peeling the sugarcane cover holding a knife in his hand and extracting juice using all his strength, will be hit by shocking emotions and love for the boy, who should be living under the care of his parents without any knowledge of the hardships of life.

The boy introduced himself as Laishram Angou when asked. Upon enquiring the reason for selling juice, the young boy said that he has to sell juice to support his family as he lost both his parents during early childhood. Youngest of three siblings, his eldest sister has married and he is living with his second elder sister. Angou studied up to class 5 while staying at Yaibilen orphanage home in Keibi. After that, he left the orphanage and gave up further study. According to local people, who know well the boy, his father expired in a tragic incident about a decade ago and his mother got married to another man.

There are many youths taking the path of self-destruction by abusing drugs and alcohol despite living under the care and attention of their parents. However, Angou has been fighting the battle of life by working hard despite losing both his parents. Every day, Angou goes to either Keibi or Nungoi to buy fresh sugarcanes and sell juice along the road going from place to place. He is able to sell juice for about Rs 300 to 400 daily, which he used for his family while saving a little amount for his future plan.

The kid's struggles is bound to prod the conscience of the government in taking up schemes like StartUp Manipur to help the people in taking up income-generating ventures in order to decrease the job demands.

Several entrepreneurs have also been provided financial assistance in the form of subsidised loan. The government has been urging the public to take up self-employment ventures instead of just waiting for white collar jobs. At the same time, there are also schemes of the government to re-admit school dropouts with the objective to educate the future pillars of the society. However, there are many dropouts like Angou, who want to continue their study but could not afford to spare time in going to school as they have to earn their living through any means.

Angou knows that he could go to school through the help of the government or someone or some NGOs. He is also well aware that getting free admission, textbooks, uniforms and study is not enough for him to survive as he has to earn for his family’s daily meal. In such a situation, it is questionable if sending dropouts to school for continuing study is enough. It would be more beneficial if the government take up initiatives to help such individuals in their study while at the same time providing a means of livelihood so that they could pursue their study without any hassle. Or should the government think it appropriate to leave individuals like Angou at their own fate while taking their small trade as a self-employment venture?

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