A little over a month ago, a family of three hailing from Madhya Pradesh’s Seoni district tested positive for COVID-19. Within a span of two days, Hanushish Dehariya, a student of Class 10, lost both his parents to the second wave.
Instead of mourning, the orphaned teen is now left chasing officials to get death certificates issued for his late parents.
“I lost my son and daughter-in-law. Hanushish is all I have now. Watching the chief minister on the television gave me hope. He said he won’t abandon orphaned kids and will provide relief to the COVID-ravaged families. My little one will make his parents proud one day,” said Kummo Devi, Hanushish’s grandmother.
Hanushish is one of the many children in India who have been left orphaned in this deadly second surge.
In a move that brought hope for such children, the Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led Madhya Pradesh government became the first one to announce state assistance for those who lost their guardians and parents to COVID-19.
On 13 May, the MP government announced free education and a monthly pension of Rs 5,000 for such children. Along with that, he announced monthly pensions of Rs 5,000 for senior citizens who’ve lost the breadwinners of their families.
But the government’s schemes for orphaned children can only work out for Hanushish only when he can prove his parents to be victims of COVID. Sadly, even days after his parents’ deaths, the boy is running from pillar to post, struggling to get the officials to sign his parents’ COVID-19 death certificates.
One Loss After Another
While his father, Girish Dehariya, died in Bhopal on 18 April, his mother, Dr Divya Dehariya, a government servant who worked as an assistant professor of Physics at Government PG College in Seoni, breathed her last on 19 April at her hometown in Betul.
The Dehariyas first noticed symptoms of the disease in the second week of April. Their reports, declaring all three of them positive, came in on April 12. Affairs were under control until Girish’s health worsened two days later. They had no one by their side.
“I failed to see directly into his eyes. He said they were burning. He could caress me no more. Papa needed a hospital and a ventilator but we could find none in Seoni,” Hanushish said as he recalled how his father lay helplessly on the bed.
He called his grandparents in Bhopal and told them about his father’s deteriorating condition. The family tried for three days before they finally managed to arrange an ambulance to bring Girish to Bhopal. They had to pay Rs 50,000 to the driver for the 305 km journey. But no amount was greater than their son’s life, which was now ebbing.
While Divya and Hanushish, who were COVID-positive themselves, headed to the former’s maternal home in Betul, Girish was admitted to New Era Hospital in Bhopal on 17 April.
The next morning, Hanushish woke up to the news of his father’s death. Before that could sink in, news came by on April 19 that his mother, too, had succumbed to COVID-19.
Certificate Chaos: ‘Death Due to COVID-19’
After Hanushish recovered from the virus attack on April 27, he knew he had to shoulder more responsibilities now. He headed straight to the Bhopal Municipal Corporation’s office with his uncle to get his father’s death certificate.
Certificate issued by Bhadbhada crematorium for Girish Dehariya.
(Photo: Ankita Anand/The Quint)
He produced the certificate issued by the hospital and that by the Bhadbhada crematorium at the office. They took those certificates, which said ‘death due to COVID-19’ and, issued him over a Bhopal Municipal Corporation-authorised certificate with no cause of death mentioned. Now, the boy has nothing to prove that his father died of COVID.
The Commissioner of Bhopal Municipal Corporation, KVS Choudhary, said, “Civic bodies state only date and time on the certificates. They have to get the COVID-19 death certificates from the Department of Health by showing the hospital’s documents.”
Choudhary said he was ready to return the original certificates after The Quint pointed out they had them in their custody.
Back in Betul, where Hanushish’s mother passed away, his maternal grandfather is still toiling hard to get Divya’s COVID death certificate.
“Nobody listens to Dalits anyway. Our pain and efforts do not matter to them. I walk down to the office of chief medical and health officer every day and all I get to hear is ‘server is down, come back tomorrow’. My daughter is dead and all I have is my grandson. Their negligence will take away our child’s innocence,” said Kamal Magarkar, Hanushish’s maternal grandfather.
When the chief medical and health officer of Betul, AK Tiwari, was contacted for Divya’s death certificates, he responded very casually.
“I was not aware of the matter. It is not that serious a concern. Her father should have come directly to me with a written application if he was facing any problem,” said Tiwari.
The negligence of the officials in state administration has now started to eclipse the hope of receiving any government aid.
“These announcements are a sham,” CL Dehariya, Hanushish’s paternal grandfather said. “They do not mention ‘death by COVID-19’ on the certificates so that they can fill their own pockets with the money allotted for my grandson. We can do nothing because we are not that powerful and it is unfortunate. My child deserves better.”
Hanushish is living with his grandparents now. If no COVID-19 death certificate is issued, he will not be able to benefit from the recently launched schemes of the MP government. A CA aspirant, he has his entire life ahead of him.