BARIPADA: An elderly tribal couple of Mayurbhanj district has been living in a toilet for the last over nine months after their house was damaged in rains.Ram and Gurubari Dehuri, both above 60 years of age, belong to the Khadia community, a particularly vulnerable tribal group (PVTG) and are natives of Sunahaja village under Bhaliadiha panchayat in Moroda block. Though their thatched hut was damaged in rains last year, they couldn’t repair it due to acute poverty.
The childless couple used to eke out a living by collecting minor forest produce and selling those in the local market. But the Covid-19 pandemic and restrictions snatched away their livelihood, leaving them in a hapless situation. Now, they are struggling to arrange two square meals a day.Though a Khadia Mankidia Development Agency has been set up in the district to provide support to the PVTG, the elderly couple is yet to get any help or government benefits.
Ram said, “We are living in a toilet built under Swachh Bharat Mission for more than nine months as there is no money to repair our house. When it rains heavily, we take shelter in a neighbour’s house. Such is our financial condition that we are finding it hard to arrange food. Sometimes, neighbours provide us rice out of pity.” While there are affordable housing schemes sponsored by both the Centre and State government, the couple is yet to get any benefit despite several pleas to the panchayat representatives and local administration. Besides, they don’t have ration or Aadhaar card and are deprived of old age pension.
Lamenting on the pitiable plight of the elderly couple, Maheswar Mohanty, a local, said the district administration should immediately come to their rescue. Contacted, Mayurbhanj Collector Vineet Bhardwaj said he will ask officials to investigate the matter. “If the couple is deprived of government benefits, it will be ensured that they get those at the earliest,” he added.