VILLUPURAM: If the pictures of an Odisha tribal carrying his wife’s body on his shoulders for 10-km after being denied an ambulance shook the conscience of the nation, watching a 15-year-old boy beg on the streets of M Kunnathur near Ulundurpet for money to bribe an official to sanction funds for his father’s funeral over 11 months after the latter’s death only buttressed how deep-seated apathy towards the bereaved was.
Ajith’s father Kolangi (45) was diagnosed with a major kidney ailment a year ago. Unable to afford the hefty sum required for treatment, Kolangi’s family - wife Vijaya (40) and children Ayyappan (19) , Anushiya (17) and Ajith (15) - helplessly watched as the ailment took him in a month.
Born into a poor family, with no house or land to call their own, the family migrated to Mumbai to eke out a living, picking up odd jobs. When Kolangi died, his family had petitioned the officials for assistance of Rs 12,500 earmarked for kin of deceased, who happened to be the sole breadwinner of the family. That was 11 months ago. Last month, the family was informed about the fund sanction by their relatives and Ajith was sent to collect it.
However, little did Ajith know of the ordeal awaiting him. After making him run from pillar to post for nearly a month, the Village Administrative Officer allegedly put a proposal before Ajith.
The fund sanction would come only if he greased his palm with Rs 3,000.After knocking at the doors of relatives and getting rejected, Ajith approached his friends, who suggested a way to make the money and get the higher-ups take notice of their plight.
As part of the plan, Ajith and a few friends made flex banners, announcing the cause for which they were begging, and began canvassing bus passengers and motorists for funds on Friday. By end of the day, Ajith managed to collect around Rs 2,000. He said he would continue his protest by begging to collect the remainder on Saturday. When contacted, Ulundurpet tahsildhar told Express that he had already constituted a team to probe into the matter.