Padma Shri awardee Daitari Naik, who claims he is struggling to make ends meet, has denied reports that he is planning to return the prestigious award.
Mr Naik was awarded a Padma Shri for single-handedly carving a three-kilometre-long canal from a mountain stream in Odisha.
The clarification from Mr Naik, popularly known as the 'Canal Man of Odisha', came after reports surfaced of him planning to return the honour as he has not got any aid from the government.
"Though I am facing difficulty in day to day life, there is no question of returning the award. The government must make efforts to reconstruct the canal so that all the villagers can be benefitted," he said.
"The award was given to me for my hard work and it is a matter of pride for me and my family. Why will I return it?" he asked.
Mr Naik also denied reports that he was eating ant eggs for survival. "I never ate ant eggs because I am not a fish. All this is false and fabricated news."
Mr Naik's son Alekh said the news reports are fabricated. "All this news about my father is fabricated. They have been displayed to portray a negative image of my father. This is right that my father has made some demands from the government for the benefit of villagers like the reconstruction of the canal and Anganwadi in the village. The government must fulfill it at the earliest."
Ashis Thakre, District Collector, has denied reports that Mr Naik reeling under poverty. The official said the Padma Shri awardee gets benefits of the Social Security schemes of the government and Food Security Scheme.
"He and his wife are getting old age pension under Madhu Babu Pension Yojana. He had already been assisted under the Rural Housing scheme in the year 2013-14. His two sons have also been allotted two houses under Rural Housing in the year 2017-18 He has been covered under State governments Farmers Assistance Scheme-KALIA and has received the financial assistance. I request not to insult the Padma Shree awardee by creating such fabricated news," Mr Thakre said.
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