Dana Majhi saw Hell on Wednesday. No, he did not visit Pakistan, officially designated as 'Hell' by Union defence minister Manohar Parrikar.
For over an hour, like Yama, the God of death, he walked carrying the dead body of his wife Amanga, who had died of tuberculosis at the Kalahandi district hospital on Wednesday morning. With his sobbing 12-year-old daughter by his side--whose visuals shot by OTV would move even a stone--Majhi was forced to turn into a beast of burden, physically and emotionally drained, because the hospital denied him a hearse van because he did not have money to pay for it. Home in Melaghara village was 60 km away.
It is a slap on the face of civil society that no one was moved by Majhi's sight, carrying his wife's body. It was only after the two had trudged over 10 km that some youth ensured an ambulance was sent to transport the body.
An Indian Express report quotes the Kalahandi district collector Brundha D saying it was Majhi who did not wait for a vehicle to be arranged. The Telegraph reported that a new ambulance was parked on the hospital premises but it could not be used as it had not yet been inaugurated by a VIP.
A look at the 22 seconds visual shot by OTV indicates that rigor mortis had already set in. How insensitive it is to ask a bereaved husband to wait, his dead wife by his side, for a van to turn up?
What kind of an emerging global superpower reduces its citizens to this state? Where there is no dignity in death. Where lack of money means you are pushed by the might of a heartless system into hell.
If this is the developed Odisha Naveen Patnaik, the state chief minister since 2000, can ensure, it is a disgrace. Tomorrow some opposition leader will demand his resignation but who cares. Because this one story is proof that Odisha is resigned to its fate because of the system Patnaik presides over.
Frankly if these are acche din, India was better off in the dark ages. Frankly, Mr Prime Minister, Balochistan can wait, let us fix our Kalahandis first.
But then apathy by the system is not something confined only to a Kalahandi. In February this year, I had reported from the dry Bidar district of north Karnataka that had reported 25 farmer suicides in just the first two months of 2016. I met 20-year-old Umesh whose father Mallappa Prabhu had committed suicide, unable to repay the farm debt of Rs 3 lakh. Umesh, a school dropout, saw himself working either as farm labour or moving to a city to work as construction labour. "I am uneducated, I do not know how to repay the debt or take care of my mother and younger brother," cried Umesh.
Swapna in Warangal district of Telangana was a similar case. Last year, her farmer father killed himself, forcing the first year college student to drop out and turn farm labourer. All this big talk of farm loans disbursed by banks is only on paper and lofty speeches and jumlebaazi. On the ground, tenant farmers have no option but to approach a moneylender and gamble with their crop.
With rains giving Telangana the go-by in August, a crisis is looming large and there could be many more Swapnas. But no stocktaking has taken place to put in place contingency measures in case of yet another drought. To top it is the pathetic manner in which the system responds. The Times of Indiaon Thursday quotes the Telangana Deputy Chief minister Mahmood Ali, who holds the revenue portfolio as saying, "Why should we expect that the state will suffer another drought? Instead, let us pray for rains," said Ali.
With the state turning out to be a bigger terrorist than the Maoists and the jihadis, the people are left with no option but to pray. Pray for mercy.
[A] system that offers no hope but pushes the farmer to reach out for the pesticide bottle to gulp or a rope to hang oneself by.
An Indian Express reporton Thursday highlights the mother of all ironies. How the Maharashtra government selected Osmanabad for a 'zero suicide district' plan to check suicides by farmers. Since then, the number of farmer suicides has gone up by one-fourth. From 136 between August 2014 to August 2015, to 172 between August 2015 to August 2016.
An indication of a system that offers no hope but pushes the farmer to reach out for the pesticide bottle to gulp or a rope to hang oneself by.
Step into Chhattisgarh and the national highway disappears at the Andhra-Chhattisgarh border. For the next 80 km, NH 30 is a dusty bowl and on either side of this non-existent highway, the Maoist sarkar has taken over. It is this part of Bharat where every villager is deemed to be a Maoist sympathiser. Without a care for the fact that the poor tribal around the habitation of Konta has no option but to bow before the might of the naxal gun. When the state harasses him for merely offering food to naxals, even if it is at gunpoint, the frustrated tribal ends up picking up the gun as well.
The state creates an outlaw. Brands him the biggest internal security threat to the nation. It is then easier to reduce him to a statistic and kill him.
The stories from Kalahandi, Bidar, Warangal, Osmanabad and Konta are proof that irrespective of which political party is in power, the system stays crippled. The PR machinery works in overdrive, seducing the nation with slogans of jingoistic nationalism, trying to cover up for the Dana Majhis of this country.
Dana Majhi has cremated his wife, hoping she will rest in peace. She will because she has bid goodbye to being a part of 'We, the People of Bharat'.