Health officials in Rajasthan’s Barmer district have introduced an archaic test to determine if a child is below five years of age and therefore eligible for polio drops.
The ‘ear-touching’ test requires children to try and touch their ears by crossing their hands over their heads. “We introduced the test as children above five years can touch their ears while crossing their hand over their heads,” confirmed district chief medical and health officer Dr Fusaram Bishnoi.
Rajasthan is considered a high-risk state because of its proximity to Pakistan, where polio is still endemic in vast areas.
Officials in the Rajasthan Health Department said that the “screening” has become unavoidable as a large number of children above five years are taking polio drops. “However, we are being supplied with the polio drops only for children under five,” said a health department official.
Others in the department also said parents refuse to bring children’s birth certificates to the polio booths. But nothing seems to justify the ‘ear test’. “Since the test is not fool-proof, there is a risk of children below five being left out,” said an official who did not want to be named.
In January this year, India was declared polio-free, three years after the last polio case was reported on January 13, 2011.