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Monday, Nov 18, 2019

‘In rural Uttar Pradesh, children still falling prey to superstitious ‘remedies’’

Child rights panel to urge the state government for adopting measures to protect children

cities Updated: Oct 13, 2019 20:27 IST
A child of Sidhauli in Sitapur district was reportedly forced to walk on burning coals when some bluish marks appeared on his body.
A child of Sidhauli in Sitapur district was reportedly forced to walk on burning coals when some bluish marks appeared on his body.(HT)

A four-year-old girl in a village in Shravasti district of Uttar Pradesh, who hadn’t been drinking milk, was ‘treated’ by her grandmother who stamped her tiny feet with burning coal even as her mother watched helplessly. This month-old incident came to the notice of the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights officials during a recent visit to the village.

The members, who were visiting different districts to review the outcome of child welfare projects, said they came across other incidents of similar nature in which children bore the brunt of their family members’ superstitious beliefs.

Child rights activist Astha Gupta said, “In rural Uttar Pradesh, children are still falling prey to superstitions. In such cases, no one complains and the children suffer in silence. Anything out of the ordinary happening with the child is termed as the effect of some evil spirit, referred to as ‘jamoga’ in several places. Villagers feel the child’s body is in the grip of the spirit and have their own way to ‘deal with the problem’.”

In the case mentioned above, officials said, the child’s mother tried to hold back her mother-in-law but the older woman brooked no arguments, believing what she was doing was for the child’s benefit.

“In another case in Lucknow, the index finger of a three-year-old was dipped in boiling oil on the advice of some elder members of her family,” said Astha.

UPSCPCR chairperson Vishesh Gupta said, “The commission did not receive any formal complaints but came across such cases while interacting with people in villages. Our teams came across various such disturbing cases but no one was ready to lodge a complaint, saying it was an internal matter.”

Paediatrician Dr Manohar Pandey, who has experience of dealing with such cases while working in Bahraich, Shravasti and rural areas of Lucknow, said “In villages, superstition trounces any concern about the child’s health. These superstitious ‘remedies’ can be fatal for the child. For instance, if a child’s skin turns bluish, it could be due to a heart ailment or hypothermia, and burning or stamping could worsen the problem.”

Narrating her ordeal, 21-year-old Juhi Paasi of Shravasti district said, “My daughter was just eight days old when I noticed bluish marks on her back. I told my husband and he informed my mother-in-law. Wasting no time, my mother-in-law put a burn marks on my daughter’s legs. Today, nearly two years later, my girl has both the burn marks as well as those bluish marks.”

Another child of Sidhauli in Sitapur district was reportedly forced to walk on burning coals when he was three years old. His grandmother and other elder members of the family suggested this ‘treatment’ when some bluish marks appeared on his body. “The child cannot walk properly even now -- two years after the incident,” said a local anganwadi (health) worker Babli.

Meanwhile, responses of some village elders show that there is a long way to go before the evil of superstition can be rooted out of our rural societies. Bimla Devi of Hardoi is the grandmother of a girl child who died a year ago after she was treated for ‘jamoga’ by her arms being pricked with nails. When HT spoke to her, she said, “My granddaughter could have been saved if only we had come to know about the problem of ‘jamoga’ earlier and treated her in time.”

Officials said the child rights panel was now contemplating to take up the issue with the state government and strengthen the laws to protect children from such atrocities. “We will hold deliberations and work towards generating awareness among the masses. The matter will also be taken up with the government for necessary action as well as for forming a statewide plan to deal with the issue,” said Vishesh Gupta.