For most people, obtaining a passport is a breeze. The swanky offices even allow you to obtain appointments. But for Raghu, the application posed a problem. Authorities insisted that he give his father’s name. After all these years, he has come to terms with it, but it wasn’t easy explaining to officials that he was a child born of rape.
“I am quite lucky to have not gone to the wrong side of things in life,” said 25-year-old Raghu told The News Minute. “I mostly had a dog’s life.”
Raghu grew up in a home for children in Ballari district, regulated by the Women and Child Development department. At the age of 14, however, he had to vacate the home, with no guidance or help on how to live in the outside world.
“I wasn’t allowed to even step out of the hostel until I was 14. All I knew were the four walls of the pathetic hostel which ruined my health. They never gave a child anything except bars of soap bigger than his hands,” Raghu says.
Once he vacated the hostel, he would sleep on the road or railways stations. “I didn’t know where the railway station was. I had to ask for directions,” he said. Eventually, he was given small jobs by railway officials and he made his way to Mysuru. He recalls that a man named KM Dayananda, who was with the Railway Protection Force, got him a job at a supermarket in Mysuru.
He worked at the supermarket for four years until 2011. It was there that he met a lot of people, and got into social work. “If people are in trouble, I try to help out,” he said.
Having been orphaned, he wished to help others like him. A steady job enabled him to save money. “I wanted to start an ashram, so I worked extra hours and saved up the money. I had saved up almost Rs 4 lakh by 2011 and had even come close to buying a plot of land in Mysuru. But a friend of mine from the supermarket duped me and took away all the money,” he claimed.
At this point, he tried working in Bengaluru, but the travel affected his health and he decided to return to Mysuru. However, the current supervisor refused to take him on without valid identity documents.
“It was after shifting to the Bengaluru branch did I realise that I don’t have any identity except for the name given to me by the women and child welfare department. People even said I could not prove that I am Indian. That is when started the search for my identity,” said Raghu.
Since he was a teenager, Raghu has known that he was a child born of rape and that his mother was in Ballari in the care of the Women and Child Development department. But he knew little beyond that.
“The department mixed up my documents and my mother’s. At one point I had to tell them that my mother was government property and that it was their responsibility to safeguard her documents,” he said.
Obtaining the answers and the documents took him to multiple districts, including Davangere where he had spent some time as a child, still under the custody of the WCD. During this time, a Srirangapatna-based social worker offered Raghu a place to stay and this address become his permanent address for his documents.
Early last year, he had all the pieces of the puzzle and met his mother. She is mentally challenged, is deaf-mute and is also partially blind. She lives in a state-run home.
When he applied for his passport with all the required documents in Bengaluru last year, officials told him they couldn’t issue a passport without the name of his father.
Undeterred, he went and looked up the law. “A few days later I went back to the office with sheets of paper from the Passport Act which says that it is illegal to demand the father’s name from an applicant,”
But it was easier said than done. Officials still refused him and also did not allow him to meet the ranking officer at the office. “I waited until closing time and just walked into his office. When he saw my documents, he was convinced. I got my passport in two days,” said Raghu.
In January, Kannada media reported Raghu’s story. It caught the attention of a Congress MLC, who gave him a clerk’s job in Vidhana Soudha, where he now works.
Although Raghu has made something of himself, his troubles have taken a toll, both physical and mental. He has undergone a series of operations for heart trouble and still takes medication. “I am highly suicidal and I cannot handle pressure even though I can do any work,” he said.
He is currently studying through the National Institute of Open Schooling to pass the pre-university exams. He aspires to write the civil services exams.
Now, with the MLC’s help, Raghu had approached the state caste verification committee, requesting that he be granted Scheduled Caste status.
“If I get Scheduled Caste Status, I will get more time to write the civil services exams.”