SHAHDOL (Madhya Pradesh): Shahdol district in Madhya Pradesh has reported its second tribal child death allegedly due to branding with a hot iron rod as part of a women faith healers' traditional method to cure ailments, officials said on Sunday.
A 3-month-old girl, who was allegedly branded 24 times by a hot iron rod in the name of treatment died on Saturday night, an official said.
Shahdol district collector Vandana Vaidya said the police were taking necessary action in the matter.
"As soon as the incident was reported, I got in touch with the doctors. They said that the reason for her death was acute pneumonia. Such malpractices have been reported in Shahdol for a long time. The administration has been making every possible effort to put an end to such malpractices. However, despite such efforts, some incidents do take place. We will ensure that such incidents are not repeated," the Collector told ANI.
On Friday, the body of a two-and-half-month-old girl was exhumed after dying in similar circumstances.
The infant's mother, a resident of Kathotia village in Sinhpur and belonging to the Kol tribe, had told authorities the child was unwell and she took her to a woman faith healer who branded her more than 51 times with a hot iron.
The child died in Shahdol Medical College on Wednesday, officials had earlier said.
In this connection, police have booked two female health healers under the provisions of The Drug and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act 1954 and IPC for allegedly poking the pneumonia-afflicted infant girls with a hot iron rod and bangles.
In the first case, the faith healer has been identified as 40-year-old Ramvatia Charmakar. The accused is yet to be identified in the second case.
The Shahdol district chief medical and health officer (CMHO) Dr RS Pandey, meanwhile, has initiated action against 15 permanent and contractual staff of the health department, spanning from block medical officer (BMO) to ANM and ASHA workers, for failing to prevent the superstitious practice of Daagna and failing to render due medical care to the two infants.
The action ranges from issuing show cause notice to removal from the present posting for dereliction of duty.
The health department’s field staff has also been directed to conduct door-to-door Pneumonia screening exercises among kids aged up to six months in every village of all development blocks of the east MP district. The department’s field staff has also been directed to track and report about people who practice Daagna.
Meanwhile, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) chairperson, Priyank Kanoongo said he had taken note of the incident and a notice was being issued to the local administration to ensure strict action in the matter.
"We have been receiving complaints from MP that a child was branded with a hot iron rod in the name of treatment. The Commission has zero tolerance for such practices and takes strict action against them. We are issuing a notice (to the local administration) and will ensure that strict action is taken against the guilty," Kanoongo told ANI.
Shahdol-based senior Hindi journalist Shubham Singh Baghel (who extensively covered the menace of Daagna in Anuppur, Shahdol, and Umaria districts of the Shahdol division between 2015 and 2019) said that it’s not just a lack of awareness among Gond, Kol, and Baiga tribals in the three districts, which is causing the killer superstitious practice to raise its ugly head time and again. Equally responsible for this menace is the field staff of the health department, who are lax in regularly vaccinating and screening infants.
(With inputs from PTI & ANI)