Poverty, bad health and government callousness have driven a Padma Shri recipient from UP to desperation. Sita Ram Pal, the 72-year-old blanket weaver has written to Prez Pranab Mukherjee and P M Manmohan Singh requesting them to cremate him along with his award after his death. Weak and bedridden now, Pal was once known for his artistic blanket weaving. Even the then President Neelam Sanjiva Reddy had called his work as classically and culturally rich while conferring the award on him.
"Although I suddenly became very famous in the area, the carpet manufacturers stopped giving me work fearing that the government will get annoyed with them if I was employed as a daily wager. So my bad days started with Padma Shri award," says Pal, a resident of Ghazipur. He lost his eyesight in 1986 to lack of money and medication. "I wrote to the central and state governments about my condition. Consequently, I was listed for old age pension of Rs 300 a month and got a house under the Indira Awas Yojana. But that didn't change my fate. My son also lost his eyesight because there was no money to pay for the doctors," he regrets. " I have written at least 20 letters to the governments in 30 years and met many Presidents, Prime Ministers and Chief Ministers for help. But they didn't realise my woes. Nobody came to ask about my wellbeing. Since I am on the death bed now, my last wish is to cremate me with my medal" says the artist.