Odisha, the resource-rich state on the eastern coast of the country, makes it to the media spotlight on a few occasions. But when it does, more often than not, stories of abject poverty and distraught people shock the nation and warm up the political discourse around the state before quietly settling down in routine.
This time, the images of Dana Majhi, a tribal man, carrying his wife's dead body on his shoulders enraged the nation. Majhi reportedly decided to walk the entire 64 km stretch from a hospital in Kalahandi to his village, after he was denied a hearse to carry his wife's dead body. The lack of empathy and administrative failure kicked up a controversy and would have soon settled down had it not been for the constant media attention that has garnered reactions from abroad.
According to a report in the Gulf Daily News, Bahrain's PM Prince Khalifa Bin Salman Al Khalifa has sent a donation to help Majhi and his family. After reading about his plight in a local newspaper, Akhbaar Al Khaleej, the prince was so moved that "he could not just stand by and do nothing about such suffering." Khalifa then contacted the Indian embassy in Bahrain and offered to make a donation.
Meanwhile, as a debate stirred around the controversy, the reporter who bared the shocking truth also came under much public ire for 'heartlessly reporting the incident.' However, according to a report in The News Minute and the local media, the reporter informed the authorities about the incident. "The Odisha TV reporter consoled Dana and his daughter, who had been walking for two hours at a stretch by then," the report reads.
The incident was brought to light on Wednesday, as visuals of Majhi carrying his wife's body and his crying 12 year old daughter emerged. The 42-year-old woman died of tuberculosis on Wednesday night at the district headquarters hospital at Bhawanipatna. Majhi said that despite his all-out efforts, he could not get any help from the hospital authorities. He wrapped his wife's body in cloth and started walking to his village Melghara in Rampur block.
Majhi's daughter accompanied him till some local reporters spotted the duo. They called up the district collector and arranged for an ambulance for the remaining 50 km of the journey.
Although such acts of instant empathy may save the day for Majhi and his family, it can in no way be a solution to administrative apathy. As it turns out, Majhi's was not a lone case. According to a report in The Guardian, in another part of the state, another family dumped a the body of a 45-year-old family member near a hospital to save the cost of transporting the man home.
Just two days after the incident left authorities red-faced, news emerged that a dead body of an 80-year-old woman was broken, slung to a pole and carried back to Balasore.
The woman met with an accident when she was run down by a goods train in Soro railway station in Balasore. Following the incident, it took 12 hours for the body to arrive at Soro Community Health Centre for post mortem even though the Government Railway Police was informed about it.
After the post-mortem, the police had waited for an ambulance to arrive for several hours. When the ambulance did not arrive hospital workers in order to tie the dead body to the bamboo pole, had to break the hip of Behera because rigor mortis (stiffening of joints few hours after death) had set in.
Ironically, in February this year the Odisha government had planned the 'Mahaparayana' scheme, according to which dead body carriers are supposed to be deployed at 37 government hospitals and a total of 40 vehicles were assigned for the job. The chief minister formally launched the scheme after the two incidents were brought to light, according to The Guardian report.