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Family ostracised over leprosy stigma in Odisha, shunned during funeral for patient

Sahoo, the patient, was under treatment for leprosy for quite some time during which the community avoided them. After his death, people refused to lend a helping hand for the last rites.

india Updated: Aug 17, 2017 00:19 IST
Debabrata Mohanty
Debabrata Mohanty
Hindustan Times, Bhubaneswar
Leprosy,Odisha,Funeral
TV grab of Sahoo’s daughter, son and son-in-law carrying his body to the cremation ground after locals from the village refused to come forward and help.(HT Photo)

The stigma of leprosy did not spare a 60-year-old man even in his death in Odisha’s Boudh district as neighbours refused to lend a shoulder to his body this morning forcing his daughters and sons to act as pallbearers.

Soon after Jaynarayan Sahoo, a retired bank official and a leprosy patient for a long time in Basudevpalli village of Boudh district, passed away early this morning, his family expected their neighbours to come forward and help them cremate their father. However, much to their shock, the neighbours and villagers did not came forward to lend a shoulder to take the body to crematorium.

Sahoo was under treatment for leprosy for quite some time. The family was reportedly shunned by their near and dear due to Sahoo’s leprosy.

As no one came forward to help them, his daughter Manjurani (35) decided to carry the body along with her brother Sanjib and her husband to the village cremation ground for funeral. “People of our own caste had shunned us due to our father’s leprosy. As no one helped us we were forced to do the last rites alone. Only the sarpanch of Manmunda helped us with Rs 2000,” said Sanjib Sahoo, son of the deceased.

In April last year, two daughters of western Odisha district of Bargarh had to carry the body of their 70-year-old mother to the funeral ground for last rites after no male person in the village turned up. The family was shunned by villagers after the woman’s husband was found to be sufffering from leprosy.

Similarly, in June this year a 62-year-old destitute woman of western Odisha district of Sonepur district died a lonely death as she was once diagnosed with leprosy. The morning she died, the panchayat sent few persons who packed her body in a cloth, loaded it on a bicycle and buried it in a forest near the village.

The leprosy prevalence rate in Odisha is above the national average of one. From a prevalence rate of less than one (per 10,000 population) a decade ago, it now stands at 1.8 in 18 of thee 30 districts of the State.

First Published: Aug 17, 2017 00:19 IST