In a tragic instance in one of Odisha’s poorest districts, yet another man was forced to carry the body of his wife for several kilometres as the hospital refused to provide him with conveyance to his houses 60km away.
Amang Dei (42), died of tuberculosis on Wednesday at a hospital in Bhawanipatna town, Kalahandi district. Her husband Dana Manjhi requested the hospital to arrange for a van but they refused to do so as he did not have money to pay for the mortuary van.
Left with no option, he wrapped the body in sheets of cloth and carried it on his shoulders with his teenaged daughter weeping and walking alongside him.
A video shot by Odisha TV and uploaded by Hindustan Times, shows Manjhi lifting up the body and walking while his 12-year-old daughter weeps beside him. He walked for 12 km before local reporters spotted him and called up the District Collector, who then arranged for transport up to his home in Melghar village in Kalahandi’s Thuamul Rampur block.
Watch video here:
As the Indian Express reports, this is not the first such instance in the state. In May, two youths transported the body of their relative from the Community Health Centre at Jharigan to their village in Bharuamunda, a distance of about 30 km, on a bike because they didn’t have the money to arrange a vehicle.
In February this year, the Naveen Patnaik government had launched the Mahaparayana scheme offering free vehicles to transport bodies from government hospitals to the homes of the deceased for those who could not afford to pay for the service.
According to the scheme, these vehicles are supposed to be available at 37 government hospitals and 40 vehicles were assigned for the task. Manjhi, however, said that the hospital offered him no such option.
In the 1960s, a Bihar man, Dashrath Manjhi built a road through a mountain after his wife suffered a fall. The people of his village in Gehlaur could only access medical care at the nearest town by either climbing the mountain or traveling around it. Manjhi took 22 years to build the road.
The story was later made into a film, “Manjhi - the Mountain Man” featuring Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Radhika Apte.
While Manjhi achieved fame for his feat, it remains to be asked why underprivileged communities are pushed to such extremes by the apathy of their government. And why there is so little change between then and now.
The Kalahandi district administration later on Thursday ordered an inquiry into the shocking incident.
"I have asked the sub-divisional magistrate to conduct an inquiry and submit the report by Thursday evening. Then we will take next course of action over the incident," Kalahandi District Collector Brundha D. told IANS.
She said preliminary report suggested that the tribal man took the dead body without informing the hospital authorities.
"According to the preliminary inquiry, the tribal man took the body without informing the hospital authorities. Even the doctors did not complete the discharge procedures," said the collector.
(With IANS inputs)