March 31st, 2017
De-monetised notes worth Rs 96,500 were discovered by an orphan brother-sister duo in Kota, left by their late mother. Sooraj Banjara (brother) and Saloni Banjara (sister), aged 17 and 12 respectively, have sought help from Prime Minister Narendra Modi by writing an open letter. They want the PM to intervene and help them, as the deadline to exchange the de-monetized notes of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 has passed.
Sooraj and Saloni Banjara were aged about seven and two years respectively when their father, who was a truck driver, abandoned them in the year 2007. In 2013, the police claimed that Sooraj witnessed a man, he called “uncle” who constantly ran a car over their mother — a nurse — leading to her death. The siblings have been residing in Kota childcare home, since then.
The police claimed that the man who murdered their mother was in a relationship with her. “The man was booked for murder (IPC 302) and destruction of evidence (IPC 201). He was trying to make it look like an accident,” says Assistant Sub-Inspector Babu Lal Meena, who was posted at R K Puram police station at that time. “The trial in the case is still on”, states Shoukat Khan, SHO (Station House Officer) of RK Puram police station.
Harish Gurubaxani, Chairman of Child Welfare Committee in Kota, said, “Police could not reach their father when their mother was murdered. A woman claiming to be their grandmother has turned up at the orphanage, saying that her son, their father, has passed away. We are verifying her claims. We spoke to Minister of State for Finance Arjun Ram Meghwal, the MP from Bikaner, and he has assured that he would see to it that our concerns are addressed”, as reported by The Indian Express
For over three years since 2013, the two siblings were forgotten amongst the 270+ orphans, runaways, abandoned or surrendered children who are residing in government-affiliated childcare homes of Kota.
Generally, a social investigation is conducted in each case by the authorities, to track relatives and rehabilitate children. Gurubaxani claims that the social investigation that is mandatorily conducted within the first four months was never undertaken for these siblings.
Gurubaxani took charge on January 13, and undertook all the “unsatisfactory files” for review, including the one of these siblings.
In an email to The Logical Indian, a representative from CWC Kota responded,
“after a deep counseling by the Child Welfare Committee, order for a social survey was passed by CWC Kota. A joint search operation followed it by the social worker, Modak police station with the child [Sooraj] himself on the 15 March. The report of the same was presented to CWC Kota on 17 March with a list and details of the found assets.”
A visit to their former home was conducted, after notifying the police. Sooraj, who had reached their rented home in Kota’s RK Puram, found that most of their belongings were safely kept by the neighbors including equipment and television.
The visit was further extended to his mother’s home in Sarawada village, approximately 60 km away from Kota, which she had bought for Rs 30,000. Upon investigation, various items including a cooler, iron box, two speakers, two DVDs, a cot, a plastic drum, a sewing machine, a clothes’ iron, 25 steel glasses, 20 steel bowls, 19 steel plates, some gold and silver jewellery, an ATM card, and a small trunk were found. A pillow, which was inside the trunk, was stuffed with 22 notes of Rs 1,000 and 149 notes of Rs 500.
Sooraj Banjara visited the house in Sarwada village along with the police and social workers. The bank notes of Rs 1000 and Rs 500 equaling to Rs 96,500 that were found, had become worthless after the demonetization announcement on 8 November 2016. In an interview with The Logical Indian, a member of CWC Kota, Ms Shubha Gupta, said,
“These children are with the shelter home (supported by CWC Kota) from 15 September 2013”. She added that the house was searched in Sarwada village on 15 March 2017, and the report was sent to CWC Kota on 17 March 2017, after which they wrote a letter to The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on the same day.
RBI expressed their helplessness in this case with their refusal letter on March 22, to exchange their old notes past the deadline. The siblings have now turned their hopes to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, by writing an open letter, which was posted online on March 25, to seek help.
Regarding the search discussion with The Logical Indian, Ms Shubha also stated, “a debit card was also recovered of ICICI Bank in their mother’s name [along with the old notes]. We are trying to find out the account and branch, in the hope that here may be more [money] in the bank for the children”.
In the office of CWC Kota, during the counting of recovered items from the children’s home in Sarwada Village. The items and the old currency were counted by CWC in the presence of both Sooraj and Saloni Banjara (standing behind).
Appeal for Help
The letter was written in Hindi on a single sheet, on which they stated, “Please listen to our Mann ki Baat, Modiji. Humare aage peeche koi nahin (We don’t have any relatives)… our father left us when we were young, and our mother was murdered. We want to deposit the money back with the government. Please help us at the earliest.” A hard copy of the letter will also be mailed to the PM’s office.Kota MP, Om Birla who visited the childcare home said, “Their mother worked hard and saved some money, so we will request the government to address this. If it isn’t possible due to legal issues, we hope to raise Rs. 50,000 for them with the help of the public. We will take care of their education, and the residents of Kota will pool in money for the girl’s marriage when the time comes. We are ready to take care of them”.
Kota MP, Om Birla who visited the childcare home said,
“Their mother worked hard and saved some money, so we will request the government to address this. If it isn’t possible due to legal issues, we hope to raise Rs. 50,000 for them with the help of the public. We will take care of their education, and the residents of Kota will pool in money for the girl’s marriage when the time comes. We are ready to take care of them”.
During the interview with The Logical Indian, Ms Shubha further appealed, “Grievance has been registered with Shri Modiji’s portal, and State Finance Minister, Mr Meghwal is also looking into the matter, but no concrete response has come yet”. She further adds, “Because this amount is the hard-earned money of their mother, and their father was not there to support her, the mother must have collected this money for the future of her children. It must be saved anyhow. It is not the fault of these children that this amount was discovered at this point in time, so it becomes a responsibility of all of us and the government to give them their right, as they are in a shelter home (government supported)”.
In an interview with The Logical Indian, Chairman of CWC Kota, Mr Harish Gurubaxani also expressed concern for the children, and said, “CWC is completely responsible for every kind of assistance the children need, and we are committed to the same cause”.
Sooraj still is undecided about his career path, however, his sister, currently a Grade 3 student claims to like to English and expresses her desire to become a teacher. Sooraj wants to save the money they get, if approved, as a fixed deposit for his sister.
The Logical Indian team hopes that such cases are considered in light of their need, and receive help and support from the relevant authorities to improve their dire situation.