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The reality of Harishchandra Yojana: A Political Gimmick?

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“The government schemes are solely meant for the destitute and the needy people; from birth to death.” This is the first and foremost catchphrase of the Odisha government. But this motto has only been in words and in reality the scenario is quite different.

One of the burning example of this is the ‘Harishchandra Sahayata Yojana’ which was launched in 15th August, 2013 by government of Odisha for providing financial assistance to poor people in order to conduct the last rites of their family member and for cremation of unclaimed dead bodies.

But unfortunately a very pathetic situation of this scheme has been noticed in Rayagada district of Odisha. B. Sarojini, a resident of Indira Colony in Bisamcuttack, died on 24th June 2017. As she belonged to a poor family, her family members approached to the office of the village panchayat to seek for monetary help for cremating the body under the Harishchandra Yojana. But they returned empty handed as they didn’t received any type of help.

Bijay Laxmi Sabar, the in charge of the panchayat said since September 2016, no money is being received under the scheme. Since then almost 35 people have deposited their forms but due to lack of fund no help is being provided. There is a rule that if there is no fund under Harishchandra Yojana, then it is to be adjusted by withdrawing money from some under schemes which will be adjusted in the due course of time. In this way 1 lakh rupees has already been given from other fund but till now they have not received any refund. That is why they are not able to provide the money. With no other hopes, the people of Indira Colony collected money among themselves and did the cremation.

A very such similar situation was reported from Kendrapara, where a lady named Ani Rout belonging to the poor class died out of illness and the body was taken to the crematorium with the help of a trolley. The body lied in the graveyard for 8-9 hours with a hope that they will get the money under the scheme. But when no such money was received, with no option left the last rites were performed by collecting money from the villagers. Her daughter also requested the Sarpanch of the village to lend her the money under the Harishchandra Yojana for cremating her mother’s body but the village head returned her saying that no such fund is available. While enquiring about the details, Basant Rout the Sarpanch of the village said that presently fund for this purpose is not available and 10 such cases were hardly adjusted with a great difficulty by him.

This is the ground reality of Harishchandra Yojana. When asked about the situation to Pradeep Maharathi, the minister of Panchayati Raj in Odisha, he said that they are not aware of the situation and if such things come under their purview then immediate action will be taken. Among our various schemes this is an important scheme and we will make sure that it is being implemented properly.

As per the scheme, the funds are to be placed with gram panchayat, NACs, municipalities and municipal corporations to the tune of 20000 rupees, 60000 rupees, 1 lakh rupees and 3 lakh rupees respectively every year the decision was completely left on the Sarpanch, chairperson or mayors to grant assistance to the most needy people.

Till now there are many forms which are lying in the panchayat office where many helpless people in Odisha are waiting for the justice as well as money. But this scheme seems to be a complete failure and has almost paralyzed with the incidents reported where poor people are deprived of the benefit under the scheme, arranging funds all by themselves and cremating their near and dear ones and conducting the last rites.

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