news Wednesday, February 11, 2015 - 05:30
Nayantara N | The News Minute | December 4, 2014 | 12. 55 pm On Saturday, a four-day-old baby was rushed to the Vijayanagar Institute of Medical Sciences, Bellary. Doctors and nurses rushed to attend the emergency case as the infant was sinking... it had been brutally branded with a hot wire, by its own parents. The tiny body had been branded eight times, as the infant was not consuming breast milk. The incident occurred in Itagi village in Bellary district. But this is not a unique case, and doctors say they get multiple cases every week. People of surrounding villages in Bellary district believe that if the baby does not breastfeed, shows signs of weakness, does not cry, or is even differently abled, branding the baby will cure the problem and strengthen the baby. Doctors at the hospital claim that this is a routine practice. Speaking to The News Minute, Dr. Srikanth who is treating the baby said, “This is common phenomenon here. There is a superstitious belief that branding a baby will ensure breast feeding. We see about 5-7 cases every week.” The baby was branded on her stomach and chest and is still said to be in critical condition. Dr. Srinivas, the Medical Superintendent of the hospital said, “She is seven days old now and is in the ICU on ventilator. It is difficult to comment on her recovery right now but we are hoping for the best.” Each time they receive a case, they inform the parents that branding the baby will not do the baby any good. In fact, it causes more harm than good, he says. Though there has been a concerted affair to create awareness, such incidents continue to occur. S Panna Raja is the President of Arivu, an NGO that is working to dispel many superstitious beliefs in rural areas around Bellary. They conduct experiments to prove that such myths do not hold water. “Children upto the age of three are branded. They believe even epilepsy can be cured by branding the child.” People often use broken bangle pieces, needles, thin wires including rusted ones. The contact of rust with blood causes serious infection among children like septicemia which may result in death. The social activist claims he has witnessed small children die due to branding. The district officials, however, have not taken any step to prevent such a practice. Since this is an age old custom and widely practised, it has seldom been questioned or to put it differently, its ill-effects have been largely ignored. The NGO has been debunking myths since 2003 about such practices, but the awareness level is still low he says. He attributes the slow change to lack of activists available in the region. However, he is quick to add that in the recent years the acceptance rate is higher. “We target school children and parents. When you talk to them personally, they understand that the practice is wrong and readily give it up.” There are no official statistics available to show many children have die due to this, but doctors see a handful of cases monthly. The social activist says, often children are branded in their initials years because the child cannot express their symptoms, but once the child gets older and begins to speak, they consult doctors for a medical treatment. While there is no scientific evidence to show that branding improves health conditions, there is ample medical evidence available to show that it deteriorates the child’s health. Every year innocent lives are lost to such bizarre superstitions. The current situation demands immediate intervention by doctors, government officers and social activists if one wants to save little lives.

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