On 24 August, Odisha's Bhawanipatna was witness to the heartbreaking sight of a tribal man walking with the dead body of his wife on his shoulders, with his 12-year-old daughter by his side for a distance of 10 kms, as hospital authorities refused him a mortuary van.
Upon failing to get a vehicle to take home the body of his wife from the district hospital, Dana Majhi set out on foot for his village Melghara, a 60-km walk.
Majhi is a resident of Kalahandi, one of the poorest and most backward districts of Odisha. His 42-year-old wife Amang Dei succumbed after losing a battle to tuberculosis.
After walking nearly 10 km, he met the crew of a local television channel. "I told the hospital authorities that I am a poor man and cannot afford a vehicle. They said they could not offer any help," Majhi told them.
The hospital's alleged refusal came despite an existing scheme from the state government for people like Majhi.
In a state where medical help isn't easy to come by, the Naveen Patnaik government had launched the 'Mahaparayana' scheme in February, offering to transport the bodies of deceased from government hospitals to their homes free of charge.
The television crew called up the District Collector and arranged for an ambulance for the remaining 50 km of the journey.
Under the scheme, vehicles to carry the dead are meant to be deployed at 37 government hospitals and a total of 40 vehicles were assigned for the job.
Kalikesh Singh Deo, a Member of Parliament from the ruling BJD, tweeted, "I have already asked the local minister to verify this and take appropriate action."
Kalahandi District Collector Brunda D said, "As we got to know of the incident, we spoke to the CDMO and arranged for an ambulance". He said he had also issued instructions that the family be provided help under the Harishchandra Yojana for the last rites.