Mrunal Manmay Dash

Angul: Tears rolled down her parched cheeks when she described her life while summing it up as 'pitiful'. This is the story of Champa Naik, a widowed woman from a poor family in Purunagarh village of Angul district who has been struggling with extreme hardship in the dusk of her life.

Champa lost her son and daughter-in-law some 10 years back and has been supporting her three grandchildren since then in a broken thatched house that neither saves them from rain nor the cruel sun. With no source of income, the family manages to survive by whatever Champa gets as a bit of old-age pension.

Holes all around the roof of their house with a small relief-polythene covering only half of the home narrates the extent of her poverty. While at the twilight of her life she keeps begging the government for a house under PMAY or Biju Pucca Ghar and some financial assistance to help her grandchildren grow, it seems the government has run out of any other help after just handing her over 5 KG of PDS rice and an old-age allowance of Rs 500 a month.

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"I have crossed 60, so can't really move out of the house for manual labour. I have to adjust with 5 KG of rice and an old-age allowance of Rs 500 that I am getting from the government," said Champa while narrating her ordeal.

Asked about the plight of the elderly woman and her minor family members, local Sarpanch of Tangiri GP, Sasmita Pradhan said, "We have taken all the steps necessary to provide her with government assistance. She is already getting her old-age allowance and 5 KG rice."

The locals who know her and her torment are quite concerned about the wellbeing of Champa and her grandchildren. One of her grandchildren is a teenage boy, who was forced to stop his studies after matriculation due to acute poverty.

"She has been running to the BDO office and Collector office for the last 10 years to avail a house under the housing scheme, but none seems to be concerned about her plight," said Buddhadev Behera, a social activist.

When asked, the Block Development Officer (BDO) of Chhendipada denied commenting on the issue.