An impoverished 70-year-old man and his three physically challenged sons have sought permission from India's president to end their lives , saying there seemed to be little hope for the family.
"With nobody to extend a helping hand, death is probably a wise option," says 70-year-old Hakimuddin, a resident of Kamalpur village in Bhadrak district.
His three sons, Raffiuddin, 35, Mayiuddin, 33, and Mustaffa, 30, are stated to be suffering from a rare genetic disease - that weakens the limbs - since they were 15 years old. They have no money to seek treatment.
"Doctors at the district headquarters hospital couldn't cure the disease. I have already spent all my money for their treatment. I don't have the means to consult renowned physicians outside the state and even in the SCB Medical College at Cuttack. Nobody is coming forward to help me," Hakimuddin told IANS.
He and his wife have worked as daily wage labourers and managed to make ends meet for their seven-member family. Hakimuddin has so far dutifully looked after his three disabled sons.
"I do all their day to day work. But with my husband turning 70, it is very difficult for us to bear the responsibilities. He is now unable to work and many times we have to go without food at night," said 58-year-old Kalsum Bibi, wife of Hakimuddin.
To add to their woes, their thatched house, which was partially damaged in the 1999 super-cyclone, is yet to be repaired.
"Surprisingly, despite being poor, they have not been included in the below the poverty line list and have not been able to get a house under the Indira Awas Yojana," said Mayinuddin Khan, a neighbour.
Despite repeated requests, neither government officials nor local political leaders have done anything for Hakimuddin's family. Finally they have appealed for mercy death.
"In my letter to the President of India, prime minister and Orissa chief minister, I have urged them to take responsibility for my sons or else allow us to end our lives," Hakimuddin said.
Asks Raffiuddin, "We are at the mercy of my parents. What will be our future after their death?"
Bhadrak Collector N.K. Burma admitted that a copy of their letter had reached his office.
"I had not come across their plea earlier. Now I will definitely go according to the provisions of government rules and regulations. Procedures to include the family in the poverty alleviation scheme have already been initiated," he said.
This is the third time a family from Orissa has made such a plea, driven to desperation by poverty. Earlier, a family in Keonjhar and another in Nayagarh had sought the president's nod for mercy death.