‘I will be staying back even if I have to eat minimal food everyday. I will do anything to recover my daughter’: Mother
27-year-old Sonam Tamang was a hardworking, understanding and loveable daughter to her family. According to her family, throughout her schooling, she suffered but that made her stronger and she knew the meaning of life and that hard work pays off.
She went to boarding school when she was in class seven but when she did not qualify for college, she did not give up, and repeated class 12. She qualified for Gedu College, which was her happiest moment.
After completing her studies in 2016, when she didn’t get through the Preliminary Exam, she had to hunt for a job. While she was struggling for a job, she heard of the ‘Learn and Earn’ (LEP) program to go to Japan through the Bhutan Employment Overseas (BEO) agent.
“Ama, I heard that I can earn more in Japan then here. Can I go?” she explained to her mother about the program in Japan and her mother agreed to her decision to go to Japan.
That was another very happy moment in her life, not knowing that would be her last gathering with her family. The happiness did not last for long.
Sonam went to Japan in October, 2017 and in September 2018 she fell sick and went into coma. The fact is that her life now completely depends on a life-supporting or ventilation machine at an Intensive Care Unit in Japan.
Pasang Tamang, her eldest brother, said he learned from the Japanese doctor that she had TB earlier and Meningitis.
Her situation was aggravated by tuberculosis and working under harsh conditions in a factory in Japan.
The Bhutanese learned that her mother and father do not know fully about her health condition beyond the Coma.
Pasang said that her health condition is as same as before, and nothing has changed for the better.
Her health condition is updated after every two weeks by her roommate, said her brother.
He said their father is having doubts about her health condition but the mother does not know anything except for the coma.
The brother said that 99.9 percent of Sonam’s brain is damaged, according to what he heard. The information on Sonam’s brain damage was made public before too.
The brother had other detailed and more critical health information about Sonam but both the paper and the brother decided not to share that part of the information until the mother can find out for herself.
The brother said the mother is a heart patient and he is a bit worried about the reaction she will have when she knows about the detailed health condition of her daughter.
Pasang received a call from the labour ministry that the government is going to fund their stay in Japan for 20 days. Pasang and their mother will be flying to Japan probably next week, he added.
After 20 days, they will have to manage on their own. However, government will see what they can do for them and discuss about that matter.
Over a telephonic conversation, the mother Dhan Maya said she is very happy that she is finally going to be by her daughter’s side. She said she could not be with her when she fell sick for almost a year. She believes that when she is there with her daughter, her daughter might recover.
The mother said her daughter, before going to Japan, said she can earn there and she also said that within one year she can pay off the loan and within another year, she can save for building a small cottage for the family.
Dhan Maya said she will only come back when her daughter recovers or not at all. “My eldest son will be coming back after 20 days since we cannot afford two people financially, but I will be staying back even if I have to eat minimal food everyday. I will do anything to recover my daughter,” said Dhan Maya, her voice choking with emotion.
“I am waiting for a call from the ministry, I wish they could send us tomorrow itself, I cannot wait any longer,” said the mother.
Sonam is one of the more serious casualties in a long list of health problems faced by students sent to Japan through BEO on the LEP program.
The allegation by students and parents is that since they were not making enough money, as promised by BEO, and the loan was so high, they had to work multiple jobs and even in hazardous conditions.
Apart from the one coma case there have been two deaths, 30 TB cases, 2 paralysis cases, 2 mental breakdowns and many traumatized youth cases in the BEO Japan LEP case.
The parents’ committee members believe it could be due to strenuous work conditions and timings which led the students to take fast food without proper timing and nutrition. Some said physical and mental stress could have led to cause the illnesses.
The parents’ committee on 3rd July filed a police case as a first step to a criminal case against BEO.
They expressed disappointment in the ACC investigation which did not go to Japan and also the stance of the ruling government and opposition, both of whom they accuse of protecting the agent.
70 percent of Sonam’s heath expenditure is met by medical insurance while another 30 percent is met by the Ministry.