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Tuesday, Nov 12, 2019

More misery for Odisha man who carried wife’s body, govt apathy stalls funeral

Two days after a video of Dana Majhi carrying her wife’s body on his shoulder went viral and triggered a nationwide outrage, officials of Kalahandi district on Friday made him run from pillar to post in the name of holding an inquiry, forcing him to postpone the last rites of his wife.

india Updated: Aug 27, 2016 19:28 IST
K Mohanty
K Mohanty
Hindustan Times
Dana Majhi carried his wife’s body on his shoulders as he was denied a mortuary van or ambulance by hospital authorities.
Dana Majhi carried his wife’s body on his shoulders as he was denied a mortuary van or ambulance by hospital authorities.(OTV video grab)
         

Two days after a video of Dana Majhi carrying his wife’s body on his shoulder went viral and triggered a nationwide outrage, officials of Kalahandi district on Friday made him run from pillar to post in the name of holding an inquiry, forcing him to postpone the last rites of his wife.

“I could not even perform dibi (last rites) of my wife. The officials could have called me some other day,” Majhi said.

Throughout the day, Majhi and his 12-year-old daughter were taken from one office to another and coached by officials about what to say before the media. At the end of the day, he was handed over five crisp thousand-rupee notes as compensation. Majhi said he was also made to sign a paper without knowing its content.

Majhi shook up the nation’s conscience after footage of him walking with the body of his wife Amangdei — who died of tuberculosis at the Bhawanipatna district hospital a few hours ago — on his shoulder for 12km was aired on Wednesday. His daughter was seen sobbing as Majhi trudged towards his village Melghar, some 60km away, with the body.

Majhi said he carried the body as he could not find a hearse or an ambulance for transportation. Aghast at the sight of Majhi with a body wrapped in clothes, a local youth alerted a popular TV channel which filmed Majhi and his daughter before calling up district collector Brunda D for a vehicle. Again, there was a twist. The collector ordered the Chief District Medical Officer (CDMO) to do the needful. When the reporter called the CDMO, he said he had issued instructions to ADMO. As the officials kept shifting responsibility for the next two hours, the journalist called up officials of the Balaji Mandir Suraksha Samiti, an NGO, who promptly sent an ambulance which took the body to Majhi’s village only after getting the tank filled by a local shop owner.

The Kalahandi district administration, though, conveniently slipped into a mode of denial with the collector saying no one could be held responsible. But, as outrage grew, Majhi was summoned from his village to Bhawanipatna. An official car fetched him to the district headquarters as his relatives waited at home to perform Dibi, a traditional tribal ritual observed three days after one’s death.

As Majhi was paraded before the media in the evening, a much-shaken Majhi said he had taken the body on his “own will” and “exited through back gate of the hospital”.

Kalahandi sub-collector Sukanta Tripathy said summoning Majhi was essential as without listening to him, the probe could not have been wrapped up.

Calling it “shameful”, Prakash Majhi, a local tribal leader, said if the government was really serious, the officials could have gone to his village and conducted the probe. “How many times did officials visit his area? For tribals, any disrespect to the deceased is a sin. Dana Majhi was insulted twice in the last two days,” he added.

Former Kalahandi MP Bhakta Charan Das said the incident showed the “heartlessness” of the Odisha government. “First, they did not give him a vehicle to carry his wife’s body. Then, they did not allow him to perform the last rites.”

Kalahandi collector Brunda D said a nurse and security guard who were supposed to be on duty when Majhi took his wife’s body, would be booked for negligence. “We are going to instal CCTV cameras at the exit gate of the hospital and also beef up security,” she added.