Bhubaneswar: It’s an image that will haunt India for many days. In one of the country’s poorest districts in Odisha, a man walked 10 km with his wife’s body on his shoulder, his weeping 12-year-old daughter by his side.
Dana Majhi had no vehicle to take home his wife’s body after she died of tuberculosis at a government hospital in Kalahandi, about 60 km from his village. He pleaded for a vehicle, but was refused one.
So he wrapped his 42-year-old wife Amang Dei’s body in a sheet, hoisted it on his shoulder and began to walk home. His daughter walked by his side, holding a bag with their meagre belongings, sobbing. “I told the hospital authorities that I am a poor man and cannot afford a vehicle. I kept requesting them but they said they could not help,” Mr Majhi said to a television crew that found him after he had walked about 10 km with the body.
In a state where medical help isn’t easy to come by, the government had launched the “Mahaparayana” scheme in February, offering to transport bodies from government hospitals free of charge.
Under the scheme, 37 government hospitals were given vehicles to carry the dead. None of those were available when Mr Majhi desperately needed the service. The TV crew reportedly called up a senior officer and arranged an ambulance for the remaining journey to Mr Majhi’s village.
Kalahandi’s District Collector Brunda D has alleged that Mr Majhi left the hospital in the middle of the night without informing the staff. “If he had asked for help, we would have provided him help,” she said. “I have already asked the local minister to verify this and take appropriate action,” tweeted Kalikesh Singh Deo, a Member of Parliament of the state’s ruling Biju Janata Dal.
His party’s government has been severely criticised. “It is cruelty …there is no dignity of life,” said the Odisha BJP’s Bijoy Mahapatra, lamenting the lack of health services in the state. On Twitter, people shared the heartbreaking video of Mr Majhi walking with his wife’s body and called it “India’s shame.”