The Odisha government has decided to provide financial assistance of Rs.10,000 to Padma Shri awardees of the state who are economically weaker. The decision comes in the wake of reports about Padma Shri awardee Daitari Naik living in penury.
Officials sources in Bhubaneswar said that chief minister Naveen Patnaik has approved the proposal in this regard submitted by the culture department. Patnaik has also instructed officials to fix a norm for the selection of Padma awardees hailing from weaker financial background.
Naik, a tribal from Keojhar district, was chosen for the Padma award after he carved out a 3 km long canal from a mountain to irrigate agricultural fields. In 2019, he received the Padma Shri award from President Ramnath Kovind.
Last month, however, he grabbed headlines again after it was reported that the 71-year-old Naik, a daily wage labourer, could not get work after he was honoured with the Padma award. He tried to survive by selling mangoes and leaves, the reports said. He reportedly said that the state government had assured him that steps would be taken for the development of the canal, but nothing was done by the district administration. He also accused the government of neglecting the development of Keonjhar, a district known for mining of its mineral resources like iron ore and manganese.
Naik and his wife Samira Naik also said that even their sons were not getting work because people thought they had become rich after getting the award. “Padma Shri has become a curse for me,” Naik told reporters when they went to meet him.
After Naik’s plight came to limelight, Kandhamal MP Achuta Samanta was among the first to extend a helping hand to the old man. Samanta assured a monthly stipend to Naik from KISS Foundation and job to one of his grandsons.
But Naik is not the only Padma awardee who is poor.
According to culture department sources, as many as 84 persons from Odisha have received Padma Shri. Out of them 45 have died.
Of the rest 39, many like Kamala Pujari, a tribal woman from Koraput district who also received the award along with Naik, are from poorer background.