Odisha wakes up after tribal man walks 10 km with wife's body, starts Mahaprayan scheme

After a tribal man's 10-km walk with his wife's body on his shoulder drew widespread flak, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Thursday launched "Mahaprayan" scheme to help the bereaved transport the bodies of their kin from hospitals to their residences.

The chief minister launched the scheme at Mahanga in Cuttack district.

The government had announced the scheme six months ago, in February, keeping in view the success of the Harischandra Yojana, in which it offered financial assistance to the poor for cremation of their kin.

The Mahaprayan scheme would facilitate transport of the bodies from government hospitals and government-affiliated hospitals to the residence of the deceased across the state, said a press release by the Chief Minister's Office.

The scheme will be monitored by General Administration (GA) and Health and Family Welfare departments.

For the scheme, 40 hearses would be procured by the government, the release said.

The hearses will carry bodies from the 30 district headquarter hospitals, three government medical colleges and hospitals – Acharya Harihar Regional Cancer Centre at Cuttack, Capital Hospital at Bhubaneswar, Shishu Bhavan in Cuttack and the Government Hospital at Rourkela –  said a health department official.

On Wednesday, a tribal man had to walk 10 km carrying his wife's body on his shoulder from a government hospital in Kalahandi district as he failed to get a mortuary van or an ambulance from the hospital authorities. The moving images of his trudge on TV channels caused outrage across the country.

The incident took place in the morning when the locals found Dana Majhi carrying his wife Amang Dei's body. The 42-year-old woman died of tuberculosis on Tuesday night at the district headquarters hospital at Bhawanipatna. Majhi said that his village was 60km (37 miles) away and hence couldn't afford to hire a vehicle.

The hospital staff took no responsibility for the event. They alleged that Dei had died on Tuesday night and that Majhi had taken away the body without informing the hospital. However, Majhi denied the statement and alleged that he began walking with the body after the hospital staff pushed him to remove it.

This was followed by another incident where some hospital workers broke the bones of a deceased 80-year-old woman, before wrapping it in a sheet and slinging it on a bamboo pole in Balasore district. The woman passed away in an accident and had to be taken to Balasore district hospital for post-mortem. Despite alerting the authorities, the ambulance did not arrive in time. So some workers decided to carry her to the railway station (from where she would eventually be taken to a hospital) in a makeshift sling.

These are not the only instances where the health authorities have failed the people of Odisha. According to a report by The New Indian Express, so far in August there have been three instances of negligence by health authorities.

On 10 August, the lack of response by the ambulance services forced one pregnant woman to deliver on the road in Koraput. Situmai Sawnta of Gajiaguda village of Tunkhal panchayat (Koraput), was forced to deliver on the road.

Another woman in labour died after calls to the helpline went unanswered. On 11 August a pregnant Salbeng Dule, resident of Koikonda village (Malkangiri) went into labour and the nearest hospital was 20 km away. After the ambulance services failed to respond, a jeep was arranged to take her to a health centre. However, the doctors at the health centre referred her to another health centre which was farther away. Dule died on the way.

With inputs from agencies

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Updated Date: Aug 26, 2016 15:27:15 IST

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