There is a strange belief among some communities in interior villages of Kutch. In the Wagad region, when a person is ill, they apply hot iron rods or pins to the affected area.
Thus, when Geeta Sava Koli, a year old baby from the Pagi Vandh village had fever and chills, her abdomen was branded with hot iron rod. Her parents waited for the child to get well, but when her condition worsened they rushed to Gandhidham. "When she was brought to my clinic, her condition was critical. She had malaria and pneumonia," says paediatrician Rajesh Jeswani.
"The wounds on the abdomen had worsened and her haemoglobin was only three grams. Immediate critical care saved her, but what worries me is that this is not an isolated episode" says Jeswani. In the past two months, of the 65 children brought for treatment at his clinic 30 had brand wounds.
"Most of them are children from the interior villages between Bhachau and Rapar in the Wagad area," says Jeswani. Falguni Lokhil, a member of the Cohesion Foundation, an NGO that works in Rapar and surrounding areas, says, "Just five days ago we went to Parkara Vandh village where we saw that not only children but even women were subjected to branding.
This is a widespread belief in this region and is more common amongst the Koli and to some extent the Rabari community" she said. According to Bhadresh Raval, who works with Prayas, an NGO in the field of livelihood support and community based work, people believe branding healed diseases.
"The people in this region have faith in this superstitious belief. We try to dispel myths, but they continue their practice and go to the doctor when the matter is out of hand. But after they are healed they attribute it to branding," he says. Raval and Lokhil say that another problem in this region is that of unqualified 'doctors'. "There are many unqualified doctors here who have worked as compounders and later set up their own clinic.
They have no medical certificate, either. "Most people go to them due to lack of awareness. There is a need for a political will to crack down on such unqualified elements" says Raval. However, health secretary SK Nanda said there is no dearth of medical facility in any village of Kutch. "On the contrary, we even have regular mobile medical units that visit the area. I have no information about child branding cases", he added.[Source: Times of India]
Posted on 2003-10-15