‘Eating ant eggs for survival,’ says Padma Shri awardee Nayak

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When 75-year-old Daitari Naik won the Padma Shri award, India’s fourth highest civilian award earlier this year for digging a 3-km long canal through a mountain in Odisha,  little did he know that the blessing would turn into a curse soon.
Now, the old tribal farmer who hails from the Talabaitarani village in the mineral-rich Kenojhar district in the Indian state of Odisha, wants to return the award.
But the honor that followed seems to have pushed him to penury. ‘’Padma Shri award did not help me in any way. Earlier I used to get work as a daily laborer. People are not giving me any work as they think it is below my dignity. We are now surviving by eating ant eggs,” said Nayak. “I am now selling tendu leaves and ‘amba sadha’ (mango papad) to run my house. The award has lost all value for me. I want to return the award so that I can get some work.”
When his name was selected for the award, Naik thought that all the problems of his village would be solved. Villagers of Baitarani were also hopeful that Daitari’s recognition would change the picture of their village. However, not much changed.
According to Odishatv.in, Naik said: “We are facing a lot of problems as the village even lacks a road. We don’t have an Anganwadi (child care centre) or a hospital. We have to walk for three miles for a minor medical issue. There is also no drinking water facility. We have the same problems that we had earlier ….”
Keonjhar district collector Ashis Thakre said he would inquire into the causes as to why Nayak wants to return the award. “We would address his grievance and try to persuade him against returning the award,” he said.

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