Bhubaneswar: If Phanus Punji became symbol of Odisha’s abject poverty in 1984, more than three decades later, Dana Majhi’s story has shaken the state and grabbed international attention.
Phanus, the poor woman had sold her sister-in-law Banita for Rs 40 and a saree to feed other members of her family in 1984. Then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi had to fly down to Amlapali village (now in Nuapada district) to see for himself the poverty in which people lived in.
The Phanus case made the Centre pump in huge funds by floating KBK (Kalahandi-Balangir-Koraput) special scheme. But, 30 years later, the harrowing tale of Dana Majhi, who on Wednesday carried his wife’s body on his shoulders, after being deprived of a vehicle, has put Kalahandi back in international limelight. The state’s poorest district is still the poorest.
The situation in Kalahandi has not improved at all. The remote villages remain as neglected as it was three decades ago. This shows the government’s lack of will to ensure that basic services reach the poor. “Successive governments are making publicity stunts in the name of Kalahandi and poverty and the end result is what we saw in case of Dana Majhi,” said human rights campaigner Biswapriya Kanungo.