Odisha: Sick Padma Sri awardee ‘forced’ to dance inside the hospital

Members of the Paraja tribal community in Odisha have demanded action against a social worker who allegedly forced Padma Shri awardee Kamala Pujari to dance inside a hospital in Cuttack ahead of her discharge.

The incident came to light after a video went viral in which an elderly woman was seen dancing in the ICU of a government hospital. News agency PTI could not independently verify the authenticity of the footage.

Social worker Mamta Behera was also seen dancing with him.

“I never wanted to dance but was forced to do it. I refused repeatedly, but he (Behera) did not listen. I was sick and tired,” Pujari told television channels in the Koraput district. where she lives from.

Tribal community association ‘Paraja Samaj’ president Harish Muduli said that if the state government fails to take action against the social worker, its members will take to the streets.

Pujari, who was awarded the Padma Shri in 2019 for promoting organic farming and preserving over 100 varieties of indigenous seeds of various crops, including paddy, was admitted to SCB Medical College and Hospital in Cuttack with a kidney problem.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik wished him a speedy recovery.

The incident happened on Monday before he was discharged from the hospital.

Hospital officials said that Pujari was not admitted to the ICU but a special cabin.

The hospital’s registrar (administration) Dr. Avinash Raut said, “The woman who allegedly danced to the priest used to come to meet him in the special cabin.”

Pujari’s attendant Rajiv Hial said she did not know Behera, who had also clicked several selfies with the Padma Shri awardee.

Behera, on her part, claimed that she had no ill-intentioned motives behind the act and that she only wanted to “remove the priest’s laziness”.

The priests belong to the Paraja community, a major scheduled tribe of Odisha, which comprises about 4 percent of the state’s tribal population.

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