Published: 05th March 2019
Why tribals in Odisha still 'brand' infants with hot nails in 2019
The practice of branding is rampant in rural and even sub-urban pockets of the tribal-dominated district
The tribal women of Sundargarh in Odisha might be opting for institutional delivery more often than before but the superstitious practice of curing ailing children by branding them with hot iron nails or bangles is still deeply ingrained in the tribal culture.
Last week, a newborn girl suffering from fits was branded 10 times by her grandfather who suspected that the baby was possessed. Born on February 24, she was admitted to the Special Newborn Care Unit (SNCU) of the Rourkela Government Hospital (RGH) four days later and continues to be under treatment there. The incident took place in Tumran village under Lathikata block.
On February 26, a five-month-old girl of Koida block was branded by her parents who hoped that it would cure her pneumonia.
These are not isolated cases. The practice of branding is rampant in rural and even sub-urban pockets of the tribal-dominated district. Health officials said illiterate and ignorant tribal families still have strong faith in traditional healers when it comes to treatment of their children. SNUC head of RGH, Dr PK Patra said the hospital receives at least 10 cases of children being branded with hot iron in a month. The practice had claimed the life of a two-month-old child in Deogaon slum here in 2016.
"Tribals, who have more faith in quacks than medical practitioners, end up treating their little ones with traditional methods at the cost of the child’s life. Only long term awareness campaigns can correct this situation," he said.
Sundargarh Zilla Parishad President Emma Ekka said branding as a traditional healing practice is intrinsically ingrained in the tribal eco-system and illiterate non-tribals are also infected by it. It is believed that a traditional healer protects a child from evil eyes by branding him or her. Health officials in the district should start an awareness campaign in the wake of recurring reports of the practice of children being branded with nails or bangles, Ekka added.