There wasn’t a more stark portrait of the loneliness of Dana Majhi than the image of him last week carrying the body of his wife Amangei on his shoulder. For 12 km, over a night and early morning, he had no one by his side except his traumatised daughter. Yet, there was an elaborate safety net stitched for him — at least on paper.
More than a dozen schemes, state and Central, that would have given him some succour, from housing to health insurance. But as The Indian Express found, Majhi, a marginal farmer who earned Rs 1,000-Rs 1,500 a month, was outside that net too. He doesn’t have a house under Indira Awas Yojana or a health insurance card, the nearest primary health centre doesn’t have a doctor, and his MGNREGS payment is due since October.
# Indira Awas Yojana (now renamed Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana), that provides those below poverty line cash assistance of Rs 1.3 lakh in Maoist-hit, desert and hilly areas, and Rs 1.2 lakh for non-Maoist areas and plains to build a pucca house: 72 per cent of Kalahandi population is BPL; 50 per cent of them have got this aid. Majhi, who lives in an asbestos-roofed mud house with his three children (all daughters), is not among them. Kalahandi District Collector Brundha D assures that Majhi would now get the house.
# Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, ensuring 100 days of employment a year, Rs 174 a day: In 2015-16, 20,384 households in Kalahandi’s Thuamul Rampur block (covering Melghar) were issued job cards, of which 8,652 households got jobs. Only 239 households got the 100 days of work. “Majhi is yet to be paid Rs 4,064 for the work he did in October last year, as the post-office in Nakrundi gram panchayat is unable to handle large amounts of money,” says MNREGS district coordinator Parbati Patnaik.
Though Majhi has an account in Utkal Grameen Bank, it has not been linked to MNREGS.
# National Rural Livelihood Mission, for socio-economic empowerment of rural poor: The scheme, launched two years ago, did not cover Thuamul Rampur block till last month.
# Forest Rights Act, entitling tribals living on forest land to 4 hectares, converted to homestead land: No one in Melghar has got land under the FRA, though they say they applied. Officials at the FRA cell in Kalahandi say they have no pending application, and that Melghar villagers had not applied in the proper format. “Melghar didn’t hold a palli sabha (gram sabha) meeting,” says an official.
# National Food Security Act, providing 5 kg of foodgrains to every eligible person per month at subsidised prices: Majhi has a ration card under the Act. He used to get 25 kg of rice for five members of his family. With his wife dead, this comes down to 20 kg.
# Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana, a cashless insurance scheme for BPL families providing hospitalisation benefit of up to Rs 30,000 in any government or empanelled private hospitals: Majhi does not have an RSBY card. There has been no new enrolment under the scheme in Kalahandi since March 2014, say officials at the Kalahandi district headquarters hospital.
# Janani Shishu Suraksha Karyakram, providing a woman who has given birth Rs 1,400, apart from entitling pregnant women delivering in public health institutions a no-cost delivery, free drugs and diet: Majhi’s youngest daughter, 4-year-old Chauli (the only one born after the scheme was launched), was born at home. No ambulance could come to Melghar to take Amangdei to a nearby hospital.
# National Health Mission (earlier, National Rural Health Mission), to provide affordable institutional healthcare to people in rural areas:
The nearby primary health centre, in Nakrundi, 6 km away, does not have any doctors and a pharmacist runs it. Amangdei, a patient of TB, was admitted here before her condition worsened and Majhi was advised to take her to the district headquarters hospital in Bhawanipatna, 60 km away.
Majhi says he borrowed Rs 2,000 from a local self help group at 5 per cent monthly interest rate for the treatment, and hired an SUV at Rs 3,000 for the two-way travel to Bhawanipatna. He could not retain the vehicle though and had to let it go. “I spent Rs 300 on a blood test, another Rs 200 for buying medicines. I had to pay Rs 100 for registering my wife’s name and Rs 10 for getting a seal on the papers. I was just left with Rs 300 when my wife died,” says Majhi.
He adds, “When my wife died late night on August 23, me and Chandini (his daughter, 12) cried and asked for help. Someone from behind a closed door told us to take Amangdei away. I couldn’t think straight. So I wrapped the body in a lungi, and lifted her. I also asked some people outside if I could get a vehicle. No one listened. Some policemen on the road asked me what I was taking. When I said it was my wife’s body, they said ok.”
Majhi went past the quarters of the district collector, superintendent of police, sub-collector, district judge and several officials that night carrying his wife. No one noticed. “It was night. Who would have seen?” reasons the District Collector. Under much pressure, Brundha D laments that the incident had brought the district disrepute.
# Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana (renamed Deendayal Upadhyaya Gram Vidyutikaran Yojana), for electrification of BPL households: The scheme brought power to Melghar, including to Majhi’s house, two years ago. He must pay Rs 160 every two months and can avail a maximum of 80 W. However, there is no power in the village since eight months after trees fell over power lines. Assistant Manager K C Swain of Western Odisha Electricity Supply Corporation, a government-managed utility, says “no one had complained”.
“But now that we have visited the village, we will repair the lines.”
# Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, to build roads to link unconnected habitations to national highways: At least 500 villages in Kalahandi don’t have road connectivity. The 18-km stretch between Saisuruni on a state highway and Melghar is yet to be constructed, rendering most of the villages in Nakrundi gram panchayat inaccessible. “We are cut off during the monsoon,” says Laxmi Majhi, member of the Thuamul Rampur panchayat samiti. The government has now sanctioned around Rs 9 crore for construction of roads for the stretch under the PMGSY and Biju KBK programme.
# Digital India and Bharat Nirman, which seek to make high-speed Internet available in all gram panchayats: At least four blocks of Kalahandi, including Thuamul Rampur and Lanjigarh, have no mobile connectivity. Kalahandi has 78 mobile towers, of which 10 don’t function properly. “While conducting anti-Maoist operations, we face huge problems,” says Kalahandi SP Brijesh Rai.
# Special, targeted schemes: A Long Term Action Plan was introduced by the Centre in 1995 for the Kalahandi-Bolangir-Koraput (KBK) districts of Odisha, 10 years after former PM Rajiv Gandhi visited the district in the wake of a child sale report. Later rechristened Revised Long Term Action Plan (RLTAP), the scheme, along with the Backward Region Grant Fund (BRGF) and Integrated Action Plan (IAP), ensures around Rs 60 crore annually to Kalahandi and other seven KBK districts. Critical development deficits such as roads are to be met through this. However, the schemes have come to a halt. “The Centre just stopped the IAP and BRGF last year without citing any reason.
The RLTAP too was stopped two years ago just like that,” says Bimbadhar Sethy, Deputy Director of the District Planning and Monitoring Unit.
Aid that has come to Dana Majhi since his wife’s death:
* Rs 30,000 and a sack of rice by the district administration
* Promise of admission in a residential tribal school for his three daughters (Chandini, Chauli and seven-year-old Sonai). Majhi has another daughter from his late first wife who is married
* A rechargeable solar battery, though the solar panel is yet to arrive
* Promise of a pucca house under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, and inclusion under the National Family Benefit Scheme
* Rs 80,000 plus four term deposit certificates of Rs 10,000 each in his and his three daughters’ names by a Maharashtra donor
* One-time assistance of Rs 5 lakh, plus Rs 10,000 a month for Chandini till she gets married or has a job, by Sulabh International
* Donation of an undisclosed sum by the Bahraini prime minister
* Besides, the government has announced a new ambulance scheme and setting up of a medical college in Kalahandi
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