Bhubaneswar: A tribal man, along with his 12-year-old daughter, on Wednesday walked around 10 km carrying his wife's body on his shoulder as he failed to get a vehicle to transport it from a government hospital in the backward district of Kalahandi where she died.
The incident took place in the morning when the locals found Dana Majhi carrying his wife Amang Dei's body. The 42-year-old woman died of tuberculosis on Tuesday night at the district headquarters hospital at Bhawanipatna.
For those in such a situation, the Naveen Patnaik government launched the 'Mahaparayana' scheme in February, offering free transportation of bodies from government hospitals to the residences of the deceased.
Majhi, however, said despite his all-out efforts, he could not get any help from the hospital authorities.
Thus, he wrapped his wife's body in cloth and started walking to his village Melghara in Rampur block which is about 60 km from Bhawanipatna.
Majhi's daughter accompanied him till some local reporters spotted the duo. They called up the District Collector and arranged for an ambulance for the remaining 50 km of the journey.
"I told the hospital authorities that I am a poor man and cannot afford a vehicle. Despite repeated requests, they said they cannot offer any help," Majhi told a local television channel.
Kalahandi District Collector Brunda D said, "As we got to know of the incident, we spoke to the CDMO and arranged for an ambulance."
"I have issued instructions to the Tehsildar to provide assistance under the Harishchandra Yojana (Assistance to the poor and destitute to perform last rites). I have also asked the BDO to provide assistance from Red Cross and CMRF," he said.
As per the 'Mahaparayana' scheme, dead body carriers are supposed to be deployed at 37 government hospitals and a total of 40 vehicles were assigned for the job.
A probe was ordered into the incident on Thursday to ascertain the circumstances which led to the incident. "The District Collector of Kalahandi has ordered an inquiry into the incident. Sub-Collector of Bhawanipatna has been directed to conduct the probe and submit a report at the earliest," state Urban Development Minister Pushpendra Singhdeo, who hails from Kalahandi district, said in Bhubaneswar.
"Sub-Collector Sukanta Tripathy has been asked to ascertain whether the tribal man, Dana Majhi, had been denied a vehicle to take his wife's body from the hospital here yesterday," said a senior officer.
Singhdeo, however, claimed an ambulance was sent for transportation of the body of Majhi's wife to their village as soon as the authorities concerned came to know about it. Unfortunately, the man had by then covered a distance of around 10 km, the minister said, adding "appropriate action would be taken after the inquiry report is submitted".
The incident drew severe criticism from many quarters with Congress and BJP dubbing the BJD government in the state as "anti-tribal" and different schemes announced by it as "confined only to paper".
"The incident has once again exposed the state government's anti-tribal attitude. Majhi was denied a vehicle to carry his wife's body just because he is a tribal," said Congress leader and former MP, Pradip Majhi.
Senior BJP leader and MLA Radharani Panda said the welfare schemes announced by the state government were ineffective and meaningless as their benefits were not reaching the targeted people....