The Dalit family have been living in a dilapidated house and despite applying for govt schemes for 10 years, they never got help.

Deceased Adhitya in the backdrop of her house
news Death Tuesday, October 06, 2020 - 16:49

In the early hours of Saturday, ten-year-old Adhitya was tossing in her sleep, making her mother Sindhu get up and check on her. Sindhu was shocked to see that Adhitya’s face was puffed up and she could not even open her eyes. The child was complaining that something had bitten her in the arms and she suspected that it could be ants. Adhitya was immediately rushed to the Pathanapuram Taluk hospital, and from there to two other hospitals as it was acsertained that her condition was very serious and doctors hinted she may have been bitten by a venomous snake.

A common krait -- one of India’s most poisonous snakes that can induce neuroparalysis -- was found from under the bed in her house. On Saturday night, Adhitya who was on ventilator support, succumbed. The Dalit family living in Ambedkar Colony at Mancode is heartbroken and have said that something this dreadful might not have happened if they had a secure house to live. Adhitya’s parents allege that they have not yet received any government aid to construct a house despite applying multiple times under various government schemes over the past 10 years.

“My child would have been still alive if we had been living in a secure house. From Ministers to panchayat leaders, I have knocked on a lot of doors to get help to construct a house,” Adhitya’s father Rajeev tells TNM.

The family lives in a small two room house which has unplastered walls, a broken tiled roof that is secured with plastic sheets to avoid leakage during rain. The house is in such a dilapidated condition that Rajeev says the whole building will tremble if one stamped strongly on the floor.

Adhitya's house

“It's an old house. There are a lot of small cracks on the floor and walls and maybe the snake had hidden inside one,” he says.

Following Adhitya's death, local leaders told the media that the family had ‘rejected’ government aid. Talking to TNM, the family denied these claims.

“Most of the media carried out the version of officials alone and pictured me as someone who denies aids. Why should I do that? No one has even asked me if this is true or not,” Adhitya’s father Rajeev says.

He says that though he applied for government aid to construct a house multiple times, most of the times it got cancelled as he was not informed about the inspections. Government officials would come for unannounced inspections on working days to find no one at home.

“The first instance was 10 years back when my wife was hospitalised for delivering Adhitya. I got a call from the panchayat asking to come home, but I was not in a situation to leave my pregnant wife alone in the hospital. If they had informed us that someone will come for such an inspection, I would have made some arrangements,” says Rajeev.

He says such similar uninformed inspections happened again when he applied again some years ago. This time the family was in Thiruvananthapuram attending a relative’s wedding. Rajeev claims that at least one of them would have stayed at home without going to Thiruvananthapuram if they were informed. “I was asked to come immediately and sign a paper but I could not reach on time,” he adds.

Room where Adhitya slept

Three years back, fed up with past experiences, Rajeev says that he contacted AK Balan, Minister for Welfare of Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribes and Backward Classes. “On his direction, I gave an application requisition aid to construct a house in Kollam Collectorate. But there has been no reply,” Rajeev says.

He also adds that he approached Pathanapuram MLA Ganesh Kumar, who is also a Malayalam actor, seeking help. Rajeev says the MLA told him he was not eligible as he was not a person with disability.

“I have around 10-15 cents of land. But our land does not have ‘pattayam’ (land ownership document). If we had a document, I would not have gone behind all of them. I would have taken a loan from the bank and built a safe house for my children, and my child would have been alive,” he says.

This year, the family has again applied for aid under the Life Mission project. While the Mancode panchayat member KP Raju says that the family has come in the list of people who have been sanctioned, Rajeev says he has not received any information so far.

Three bite marks

Rajeev was in Thrissur when he got a call from his wife on Saturday early morning. She said Adhitya was not well and that 'ants' might have bitten her.

“I asked her to put it on video call to see my child. Her face was swollen, she could not even open her eyes. I immediately called my brother who is an auto rickshaw driver. He came and took my child to Pathanapuram Taluk Hospital,” he says.

But as Adhitya’s condition worsened, she was shifted to Holy Cross Hospital in Adoor, and from there she was put in ventilator support and was shifted to Pushpagiri Medical College in Thiruvalla, for speciality treatment, where she succumbed on Saturday night.

It was amidst this that Rajeev’s friends searched the house and found a snake.

Adhitya had been sleeping on the floor, when she got bit. And the snake was discovered from under the bed, besides which the child slept.

Read: In heroic act, Kerala man saves home-quarantined baby bitten by snake

Watch: Kerala Forest officers training on how to scientifically rescue snakes