Follow us on

|

Death at the doorstep

Print edition : Sep 21, 2007 T+T-
Oria Kanjika sitting near his fathers body at the Dasmantpur community health centre. Cholera also claimed the lives of Orias mother and a son.-

Oria Kanjika sitting near his fathers body at the Dasmantpur community health centre. Cholera also claimed the lives of Orias mother and a son.-

Oria Kanjika sitting

ORIA KANJIKA (35) of Pajar village in Dasmantpur block of Koraput district was shell-shocked when his father died of cholera at the community health centre on August 31. The disease had already claimed the lives of his mother and seven-year-old son in the days before that.

Oria was even scared to touch the body of his father for fear of contracting cholera. His father, Saiba Kanjika, caught the disease soon after his mothers funeral at the cremation ground on the outskirts of their village.

With only one villager accompanying him to the hospital 20 km away from his village, Oria needed help to take his fathers body back home. But help was difficult to come by.

His request to the hospital authorities to arrange a vehicle to transport the body was met only on September 1 afternoon, a full 19 hours after the death. The hospital did not even have an ambulance. The private vehicle that had been hired by the government for its operations to tackle the epidemic came only after the intervention of District Collector Balakrushna Sahu.

More than anything else, Oria was worried about his wife and a remaining son and a daughter. Uncertainty and fear of further cholera attacks in the family were writ large on his face.

Oria said the family did not have enough land to eke out a living. They also did not have a below poverty line (BPL) card. We have been waiting for a BPL card for the past six years, he said.

As shifting cultivation on his own land did not give him enough yield, Oria worked as a casual labourer whenever work was available in the area. He said there was no work since a watershed project under the food-for-work programme was completed in June.

From the little he earned, he paid Rs.25 every alternate month to a family possessing a BPL card to use it to draw 25 kg of rice at Rs.4 a kilo.

Orias is not an isolated case in Pajar village. Four others succumbed to the disease in the village, which has only 85 families, and many were undergoing treatment for cholera at different hospitals.

Tears rolled down Orias cheeks when he left for his village in the vehicle that carried the body of his father. Meanwhile, more and more patients were being brought to the hospital from far off hamlets.

Prafulla Das