Gorakhpur: Amid deaths, people find hope under a ‘peepal’ tree
Sumita Devi (40) never forgets to pray underneath a peepal tree located opposite the encephalitis ward at the BRD medical college hospital. Like scores of others, her eight-year-old daughter is also battling suspected encephalitis, a disease which has claimed many lives in the region this year.
Popularly known as ‘Param Baba Asthan’, the tree has become a symbol of hope for the patients and their attendants, who believe ‘Param Baba’ will make their children healthy again.
Talking to HT, Sumita Devi said her daughter was admitted to BRD hospital on August 8, two days before the oxygen crisis hit the hospital. “When the oxygen supply dried out on August 10, several children died but my daughter survived the tragedy. The blessings of ‘Param Baba’ saved her. Since then I hold regular payer there for the well being of my child,” she said.
“More than the doctors, people have more faith in ‘Param Baba,” said Shiv Kumar Yadav an employee of the BRD Medical College adding, “Those whose children get well offer ‘khadau’ (wood footwear) to baba with a request to protect their child from the killer disease.”
Stacks of ‘khadau’ tied with saffron fabric can be seen around the trunk of the tree .
Then there are those who are simply there to cash in on the misery of the people. Sorcerers for instance. They can be seen moving near the spot claiming to treat the patients with their magical power to invoke ‘Param Baba’.
A social activist Sanjay Singh said, “faith of the people in the tree as well as sorcerer and quacks active on the Medical College premises in fact throws light on the pathetic medical services. Due to break down in health services, such elements are active in the area to make a fast buck.”
“It should not be like this. The state government has released large funds for awareness campaigns in Gorakhpur and adjoining districts where encephalitis cases have been reported. It seems the Information, Education and Communication (IEC) wing of the health department has failed in its job,” he said.