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25-day-old tribal child dies in Odisha after being branded with hot iron to cure wound

Superstitious practice of branding children with hot objects such as an iron nail is rampant in tribal areas of Odisha

india Updated: Aug 06, 2017 21:37 IST
Debabrata Mohanty
Debabrata Mohanty
Hindustan Times, Bhubaneswar
Superstitious practice,branding with hot iron,Traditional cure
Superstitious practice of branding children with hot objects such as an iron nail is rampant in tribal areas of Odisha (Representative image )

A 25-day-old tribal child died in Odisha’s Keonjhar district after she was branded with a hot iron to cure a wound around her navel, a superstitious practice rampant in rural areas of the state.

Driven by the superstition, parents of the newborn branded her on July 29 after trying in vain other “traditional cures.” But as the wound developed infection, they rushed her to the Keonjhar district headquarters hospital.

She succumbed to the injuries as branding worsened the infection, pediatric specialist of the hospital Dr PK Mahakud said.

Five days ago, an 18-day-old girl from the same district died under similar circumstances after her parents branded several places on her stomach to cure her bloated belly.

At least a dozen such cases were reported from the district in the last two months.

To curb the trend, the administration recently launched awareness campaigns against the practice, said Keonjhar district collector N Thirumala Nayak.

“Our officials are going village to village telling parents to get their ailing children treated in hospitals instead of branding them with hot iron. But as rural people are steeped in superstitious beliefs, it will take time to completely prevent such cases,” said Nayak.

It’s not just Keonjhar, the practice is rampant even in remote areas of other districts.

In January, a two-month-old tribal kid in Nabarangpur’s Raighar block died several hours after his parents got him branded by a traditional healer with the juice from the seed of a wild cashew apple.

In December 2016 an eight-month-old girl in Kandhamal district died after a witchdoctor branded her on stomach with a hot iron rod to cure her loose motion. The girl’s twin brother, who was also branded, however survived.

In March last year, a 65-year-old woman in steel city of Rourkela was arrested for allegedly branding a month-old boy with hot iron bangles. The baby later died.

The same month, a 4-year-old boy of Malkangiri district died after his grandfather branded him with hot iron to cure him of his fever and stomach cramps.

A one-month-old boy in Nandahandi block of Nabarangpur district died the same month after he was branded on his stomach and chest.

Last year, officials of the Nabarangpur district had started Jyoti, an intensive health awareness campaign for the 4300-odd traditional healers against the ill-effects of branding and other traditional healing practices.

The traditional healers of the district took oath not to do anything that would endanger the lives of babies.

“The awareness campaign managed to raise awareness among the tribals. Though some may still be doing it, but we did not hear any such branding being done in the district after the drive,” said Manorama Majhi, who played a major role in designing the awareness campaign.

First Published: Aug 06, 2017 21:37 IST