Dana Majhi has ultimately been saved from doom. The Odisha tribal who dented our collective conscience on being forced to walk 10 kilometres with the body of his dead wife last month was in Delhi this week to collect financial aid. The Bahrain government gave him Rs 8 lakh. Others also chipped in with donations that add up to no less than a king’s ransom for the poor farmer from poverty-stricken Kalahandi.
India will perhaps now sleep better, comforted by the expected change in the trajectory of Dana’s destiny. But if one looks deeper, the comfort quickly turns into cold comfort. One Dana Majhi has found help. What about the other Dana Majhis?
The Dana Majhi we saw on the viral video was fortunate even in distress. A TV reporter was at hand to chronicle his helplessness.
But no such luck for Kuni Ho of Oupada in coastal Odisha’s Balasore who was forced to walk with the body of his niece this week. The girl had slipped into a village pond and was referred by local doctors to a community health centre at Soro.
But Kuni couldn’t find any transport and had to walk five kilometres before an ambulance arrived. The girl was declared dead on reaching the community health centre.
A day earlier, another tribal, Arjun Karsika, of Rayagada endured similar helplessness. He was forced to carry his ailing wife, Ruai, across a river on his shoulder to the Kalyansinghpur community health centre, in the absence of transport connectivity.
Both Kuni and Karsika were distinctly unlucky. They did not make it to national TV. But their sufferings were no less than Dana Majhi’s. All of them are symbols of our shame.
In a state where life has historically been cheap, Dana Majhis and deprivation abound. Though rich in natural resources, Odisha is short on human dignity. It has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the country, second only to Madhya Pradesh. It also tops in undernourishment among males in the five to 18 age group and females in the 18-59 bracket. Some 2000 of 4,800 government doctor posts are vacant. The list of the state’s ignominy is long.
There is nothing comforting, therefore, in handing out doles to one Dana Majhi. There is plenty to be ashamed of Odisha and lose sleep over.