Earlier this week, the story of a tribal man in Odisha, who was forced to carry his wife's body on his shoulders after hospital authorities did not provide him an ambulance for transport, went viral.
Dana Manjhi, who hails from the backward district of Kalahandi, on Wednesday had to carry his wife Amang Dei's body and walk for almost 10 km before an ambulance could be arranged.
Visuals of Manjhi carrying the body on his shoulders with his daughter crying by his side caused widespread outrage at the government apathy.
However, a significant amount of ire was also directed at the reporter who filmed the incident as many thought that he should have helped Manjhi instead.
Attempting to clear the air around the issue, OdishaTV in a report has stated that the journalist who shot the video is its Bhawanipatna reporter Ajit Singh and that he in fact played the "good samaritan". It was Singh who informed the authorities concerned about the incident and he "had to move heaven and earth before the ambulance reached the spot".
According to the report, Singh was informed about the incident early on Wednesday morning by his sources. He then left on his bike for Shagada village and found Manjhi walking with his wife's body.
"The OTV reporter consoled Dana and his daughter, who had been walking for two hours at a stretch by then," the report says.
Singh first called the Kalahandi Collector D Brunda who said she would ask the Chief District Medical Officer (CDMO) to arrange for the ambulance. However, when he contacted the CDMO, he said that his phone was unreachable and he did not receive the collector's call.
The CDMO then said that he'd tell the Assistant Divisional Medical Officer (ADMO) to take care of the situation.
After calling Lanjigarh MLA Balabhadra Majhi and still not getting an ambulance, the report states, Singh "contacted an office bearer of the Balaji Mandira Surakshya Samiti, who sent an ambulance while Pramod Kumar Khamari, a local businessman, gave the money to refill fuel in the ambulance."
Finally the ambulance arrived and the body of Manjhi's wife was transported to his village, some 50 km from Shagada.
The report adds that "Ironically, the man who discharged his duty as a concerned human being, apart from playing the role of a reporter, is being accused of insensitivity while not many fingers are being pointed at the entire district administration from the collector downwards, which displayed insensitivity of the worst possible kind."
Manjhi’s wife 42-year-old Amang Dei had died of tuberculosis on Tuesday night at the district headquarters hospital at Bhawanipatna.
For those in such a situation, the Naveen Patnaik government had launched the 'Mahaparayana' scheme in February, offering free transportation of bodies from government hospitals to the residences of the deceased.
"I told the hospital authorities that I am a poor man and cannot afford a vehicle. Despite repeated requests, they said they cannot offer any help," Majhi told a local television channel.
He therefore wrapped his wife's body in a cloth and started walking to his village Melghara in Rampur block, which is about 60 km from Bhawanipatna.
Majhi's daughter accompanied him till some local reporters spotted the duo.
The Kalahandi District Collector told PTI, "As we got to know of the incident, we spoke to the CDMO and arranged for an ambulance."
"I have issued instructions to the Tehsildar to provide assistance under the Harishchandra Yojana (Assistance to the poor and destitute to perform last rites). I have also asked the BDO to provide assistance from Red Cross and CMRF," he added.
As per the 'Mahaparayana' scheme, dead body carriers are supposed to be deployed at 37 government hospitals and a total of 40 vehicles should be assigned for the job.