THUAMULRAMPUR: The road from the TB Ward located at the back end of the District Headquarters Hospital of Bhawanipatna opens to the main business centre and heads towards Sagada. In the small hours of August 24, Dana Majhi took this road and melted into darkness carrying his dead wife Aman on his shoulders. His companion in the dark journey was Chandini, his 14-year-old daughter. Further up this road, the signs of development start to fade away.
Melghara, where everyone is headed these days to meet Dana Majhi, who has become a “case”, an icon of sorts.
The road, treacherous after morning showers common in this block of Kalahandi, needs horsepower which only a four-wheeled drive or a bike could generate. As per Prime Minister Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) statistics, over 1,200 habitations of 2,860-odd in the impoverished district continue to remain uncovered by road network as yet.
The PMGSY road, which virtually does not exist at most stretches, leads to the Primary Health Centre (PHC) of Nakrundi Gram Panchayat. Dana had gone there with his sick wife last year, pharmacist Sudhir Sahoo recalls. She had developed fever and the medication worked.
In his one one-room home, Dana continues to get badgered by hordes of people for the last 10 days. He goes through it all with an icy countenance. “Aman (his wife) had become very weak and would cough all day. I was advised to take her to the ‘Bada Medical’ (DHH) and vehicle was the only option,” he says.
Dana borrowed Rs 4,000 from Narishakti SHG Group and paid Rs 3,000 for a Mahindra Marshall. At the DHH, he paid for the diagnostics and medicine, for which spent Rs 80. The only food that his wife got from the hospital was an egg. Aman died at 2 am. He asked the inmates of the TB ward what to do next. “They said take her home. A disconsolate Chandini too said let’s go home,” he says.
What happened next was all over the media, but that does not matter anymore. Dana is no more another tribal from the dark pit of Kalahandi, synonymous with child sale and starvation deaths. His posters adorn Bhawanipatna, he was made to participate in a political rally and stage a dharna when he should have been mourning.
Today, he holds a mirror to a state which was absent when he suffered not just that day but all these years. Dana is a BPL card holder, yet an Indira Awas Yojna house eluded him till all this happened. He has a job card under MGNREGS, but has not got work since December.
Villager Dasaratha Majhi shows his blank job card. “We worked last in December for six days, but have not been paid yet,” he says. Against the wage rate of Rs 174, they received just about Rs 100.
As a forest dweller, Dana is entitled to land he has been inhabiting, but no claims have been generated through the gram sabha under the Forest Rights Act (FRA). Chandini, the eldest of three daughters, is a Child Labour School dropout and works in the hills.
Dana has been promised Rs 75,000 under Indira Awas Yojna, Rs 12,000 for a toilet under Swachh Bharat Yojna and land under FRA. The Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojna, which has enrolled over 1.63 lakh families in Kalahandi, will have him on the registers soon. Balakrushna Mohapatra, the headmaster of Sirimoshka High School, has finalised admission of his three daughters along with two nieces at the 100-bed residential school at Sindhipadar, about 30 km from Melghara.
What a price he had to pay to get what he was entitled to long ago?