A ‘Padma Shri’ That Snatched Away Livelihood Of Odisha’s ‘Mountain Man’

At a time when BJP's Balasore MP Pratap Sarangi delivered his maiden speech citing instances where Modi and Co have reached the nook and cranny of the country to recognize achievers, Daitari Naik, fondly called Odisha’s 'Mountain Man' and one such achiever who was awarded Padmashri early this year, was broken. The coveted Padmashri instead of making Naik’s life good, has turned upside down

Bhubaneswar: When his name was selected for the fourth highest civilian award of the country, ‘Padma Shri (early this year), Daitari Naik of Baitarani village under Banspal block of Odisha’s Keonjhar district had thought that all the problems of his village would be solved. Villagers of Baitarani were also hopeful  that Daitari’s recognition would change the picture of their village. But the award has  rattled Daitari’s life forcing his family to starve. Daitari now wants to return the award as the last resort.

Daitari, 70, hogged headlines after he single-handedly carved out a 3-km-long canal from a mountain stream with a hoe and a crowbar to water agricultural fields in his village. But the recognition has now pushed this farmer’s family to penury.

“The Padma Shri award didn’t help me in any ways, rather people are now not giving me any work. We are selling kendu leaves and amba sadha (mango papad), to eke out a living,” laments Daitari Naik.

Padma Shri Daitari Naik Near His Home At Baitarani Village Of Odisha

He further says that he had requested for concrete lining of the canal for irrigational purpose but no step has been taken yet for the same.

“We are facing a lot of problems as the village even lacks a road. We don’t have an Anganwadi centre or a hospital. We have to walk for three miles for a minor medical issue. There is also no drinking water facility. We have the same problems that we had earlier… What will I do with this Padma Shri award, which is of no value and no use for me? Hence, I want to return the award,” says Daitari.

Daitari In His Home (Looking At the Padma Shri Award)

Daitari’s son Alekha Nayak also feels that the promises made to his father were not kept and so, out of frustration and disappointment, he has decided to return the Padma Shri award. “We don’t have a road; the canal here is dying due to erosion. My father used to work as a daily labour prior to receiving the award, but since the day he has been conferred with the Padma Shri, all think that he should not be given daily wage work out of respect,” says Alekha.

A local resident Padmanava Behera seconds. “The award failed to serve the purpose for him and also the village. When he got Padma Shri, we had expectations that the government would now do some development in our village but the condition of the village remains the same. Out of fear, no one is even giving Daitari any work,” Behera expresses his feelings.

Daitari’s Wife Khambari

Wife Khambari reminisces the day when her husband was conferred with the award as the most fateful day in their life. “People say we are ‘big people’. But since the day he got the award, no one is giving us any work. The condition of our family is worsening with each passing day,” rues Khambari.