Odisha Sun Times Bureau
R Udayagiri, Aug 18:
When he made the perfunctory announcement on Saturday about ex-gratia payment of Rs 1 lakh for Sunita Raita, the tribal girl from Gajapati who committed suicide because she was not paid her promised stipend for 16 months, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik must have thought that her family members, poor as they are, would be eternally grateful to him for the favour.
What he got from them instead on Sunday was the kind of snub he could not have dreamt of.
“I will pay the Chief Minister Rs 1 lakh. I will sell my land, take loans, do whatever it takes. But let him bring my daughter back,” said Srimati, the disconsolate mother of Sunita, each word bringing out the pain and anguish in her.
“Only today I came to know that the value of a tribal girl’s life is a mere one lakh rupees for the state’s chief minister,” said Sudam Raita, Sunita’s father, in a voice choking with emotion.
Sunita’s younger sister Madhusmita, a student of Class VIII, had a piece of advice for the Chief Minister.
“Instead of making such announcements, the Chief Minister should see to it that no poor student like my sister, who is studying solely with the hope of stipend money, is deprived of it as she was,” was her advice that the Chief Minister would do well to pay heed to.
In a belated damage control exercise, the Naveen government had shunted out Basudev Bahinipati, the collector of Gajapati, who had been named in the suicide note left behind by Sunita, on Sunday. She had also named the project administrator, Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA), Gajapati in the note.
Sunita had committed suicide on Wednesday after her last hope of getting her long delayed stipend was dashed on Monday. She had met the Gajapati collector that day with her grievance when the former had gone to her village. But with no assurance coming forth from the collector, Sunita committed suicide by hanging herself on Wednesday.