Pradeep Pattanayak

The day when he returned home in Sundargarh district from Pakistan after spending 25 years in prison there, he was not only given a resounding welcome at his village but also showered with promises by the district administration and leaders. 

Hardly did he then know that these promises were empty ones, only to make, not to keep. 

We are talking about Birju Kulu, a resident of Katanga Jangarpada village under Kutra block in Sundargarh district. With there being none to look after him in this advancing age, he is presently living a wretched life. 

Birju’s family was a happy one with four members- his father, a sister and he. His mother had died after giving birth to him. Days passed by and everything was fine till he was a Class X student. 

His fate played a cruel joke on him as he lost his mental balance and went incommunicado. His father searched for him at every possible place but to no avail.

Meanwhile, he married off his daughter and lived the rest of his life by remembering the time he had spent with Birju. Finally, he too left for his heavenly abode. 

On the other hand, Birju somehow found himself in the land of Pakistan. He spent his salad days in the prison there. 

At a time when Birju was forgotten, the district administration came to know that Birju had been in a Pakistani jail for 20 years. Then the process to get him released started. Another three years passed by. 
Finally, the morning came when he was set free from the Pakistani jail on October 26, 2020.

After landing on Indian soil, he was kept at a Covdi centre in Punjab’s Amritsar. 

On November 13, a team from the district administration left for Amritsar and returned with a Birju, a frail man with hair turned grey.

There were leaders and officers to welcome him in the district. Promises of help showered on him. 
“The first thing we will do for him is to give him his Aadhaar card. Then he will be given a ration card. We are also determined to construct a house for him,” the then Kutra BDO Manas Ranjan Swain had promised then. 

But not a single promise was kept except for the one for a ration card. However, he is no longer receiving rations for a year now.

Presently, he is living on the mercy of whatever his cousin brother’s family gives. His cousin brother is a daily wager. 
When asked, Birju said, “I need a house to live in.”

“We are not getting any help. The rice he was receiving has been stopped. He was promised of houses and all sorts of things. But, the irony is that he has received nothing,” rued Arshita Kulu, Birju’s sister-in-law (cousin brother’s wife).

(Reported by Biswaketan Ray)