‘Village of Widows’: Women of lesser God struggle to sustain

Keonjhar: Maharangajodi village in Keonjhar district has turned a cursed village with all its menfolk losing their lives to a deadly lungs disease. Since years, a pall of gloom has descended on the village that has been left with women, only women, who have been pushed into the brink to lead a life of misery, fighting a lost battle to survive.

According to the reports generated by OTV, all the 50-odd men in the village lost their lives to an occupational hazard while working in a mining company Pyrophylites. The company was inaugurated here in 1982 for the production of lime and sand stone.

All the 50 men from the village, who headed to the mines to earn a livelihood, reportedly grew weaker and faced trouble in breathing. The prolonged exposure to silica further deteriorated their health.

Later after checkup, it was found that exposure to silica had endangered the lives of the men affecting them with Silicosis, a fatal disease of the lungs. Gradually, all the miners lost their lives one after another.

Since all men of the village succumbed to the disease, Maharangajodi was tagged ‘Village of Widows’ in Odisha.

It has been eight years since the Pyrophylites company has been shut and the women are left to fend for themselves. Sources said no compensation has been provided to these women either by the government or the mining company.

“The company paid very less wages to the men. Even after exploiting them, the company did not do anything to mitigate the problems of the workers diagnosed with respiratory disease. Neither have we been compensated after their deaths,” alleged one Sarojini Khuntia.

The women further alleged that the state government has shown no interest to compensate them, nor has it taken any step to penalize the mining company for not providing compensation.

“A case of Employee compensation was registered at the Assistant Labour Commissioner’s court. After a probe it has been decided by the court that only 16 beneficiaries will be provided with a compensation grant of Rs 46 lakhs,” stated district labour Office Incharge Sunita Kisaan.

Though the district labour department has provided relief to the families of 16 miners, nothing has yet been done to help the rest. With no means of sustenance, these women have been leading life in penury.