Kendrapara: Human rights activist Radhakanta Tripathy has requested the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to direct the Orissa government to eradicate the superstitious practice of hot iron branding treatment in the state and to compensate the victims.
The NHRC has been monitoring a case filed by the rights activist Tripathy, who alleged that new-born infants and their mothers were subjected to hot iron treatment on the pretext of healing in Nabarangpur and other districts of Orissa. As a result, the victims suffer serious injuries and often die.
He sought the intervention of the NHRC to ensure the right to health in the remote areas of the state where such practices are rampant.
As per the directions of the commission, a report of the SDPO, Boriguma, Koraput, revealed that one Bati Harijan, 18, daughter of one Girdhari Harijan of Canal Sahi delivered a boy December 12, 2015.
After a few days of birth, the child became ill. So Bati Harijan went to her parent’s house. In that village, one Hiramani Harijan, 70, a quack, treated small kids using traditional methods like the hot iron treatment. When Bati Harijan took her child to the house of Hiramani, she branded the belly of the infant at 3-4 places using a hot iron rod.
After the treatment, Bati Harijan came back to her village. Meanwhile, Hiramani Harijan, who administered the hot iron treatment on the belly of the child, died. The baby again developed fever January 8, 2016 and was taken to CHC, Boriguma, for treatment by his parents.
The Medical Officer of CHC, Boriguma, found a healed wound on the belly of the baby and he immediately referred the child to SD Hospital, Jaipur. The baby underwent treatment at the hospital from January 8, 2016 to January 14, 2016 and was discharged.
The medical officer did not intimate the police regarding admission of the child branded with hot iron. According to the report, except this incident, there was no other information available on such incidents.
A report dated March 20, 2016 was received from the SDPO, Umarkote in which it was intimated that one Bindu Kallar, S/o Kusa Kallar, in Nabrangpur reported that he had a girl at CHC, Umarkote, January 10, 2016.
As the child became ill January 17, 2016, he and some local villagers took his daughter to one Sukmati Kallar of Siunaguda village for treatment. Sukmati treated the baby with heated glass bangle pieces on the belly of the child and the child became seriously ill. Then he took her to CHC, Umarkote, and subsequently to Nabrangpur Hospital for treatment. Kallar’s daughter died at Nabrangpur Hospital January 24, 2016 night.
The IIC, Umarkote registered a case and investigation was taken up.
The NHRC carefully considered the reports. A copy of the reports was sent to the Chief Secretary, for action. He was asked to submit an action taken report. In response, a report dated March 26. 2018 was received from the Special Secretary, Home Department, Government of Orissa.
After investigation in Umarkote a case was charged. The parents of the deceased child were provided with social welfare benefits including financial assistance.
The district administration of Nabrangpur started a massive awareness campaign named ‘Campaign Jyoti’ to make people aware about the harmful effects of superstitious treatments through ASHAs, ANMs and Anganwadi workers. Posters, banners and booklets were widely circulated to make the campaign successful.
In his rejoinder, Tripathy stated that the report admits the baby has been treated with hot iron rods. The report admits prevalence of superstition in the area. The Chenka Treatment i.e. branding by hot iron rod by traditional healers is prevalent in the tribal districts of Odisha. Awareness drive is insufficient. Had there been such a campaign by health workers the present case would not have arisen.
The arrest of illiterate healers is one aspect but ensuring primary healthcare and keeping constant a vigil over the issue is of utmost importance that the state fails to perform. Tripathy requested the NHRC to direct the state to ensure payment of compensation to the deceased victims and injured ones and ensure a massive campaign against Chenka treatment.