No More Branding of Children with Hot Iron
- Pallavi Priya
- Published on 27 Nov 2020, 2:14 pm IST
- 4 minutes read
Unless IAS officer Swarochish Somavanshi came on the scene, many people in Madhya Pradesh’s Umaria district continued with the abhorrent practice. They believed the painful branding of children with hot iron would make them healthy. Now of course, thanks to Somavanshi, they have mended their way.
- IAS Swarochish Somavanshi
Would you believe it that in this day and age, children get branded with hot iron- the same treatment which is meted out to horses? And that this abominable practice is carried out in certain pockets of Umaria district of Madhya Pradesh, in a belief- idiotic, of course- that doing so would help the kids overcome malnutrition? But thanks to the timely intervention by IAS officer Mr Swarochish Somavanshi, this practice is in a sharp decline. Also, a series of measures taken by him have started helping the children with malnutrition.
Besides fighting centuries’ old superstitions, such as iron branding of children, Mr. Somavanshi is also bestowed with a kind heart. One which goes beyond the limits of his duties. In one such heart-warming gesture, he gave up his office air-conditioners and got these installed in a place where malnourished children spent afternoon hours in the scorching heat. At present, Mr. Somavanshi is posted in the Technical Education department of Madhya Pradesh. Among the public, he is a source of inspiration for his kindness and unconditional love. But first, his battle against malnourishment.
Almost 80 % of population in Umaria resides in rural areas, and is dependent on forest and coal mines for survival. Living in rural aras for long could be reason why many people here remain uneducated, and to a large extent steeped in superstitions. The major problem here was malnutrition in children. When Mr. Somavanshi got posted here, the thing that shocked him was the way locals were fight the scourge of malnutrition. The elder of the family used to iron brand the child’s belly, in an erroneous belief that this would make them healthy. When asked about the reason, they used to say “We also have the marks and this shows that the process helps in gaining health’’. Mr. Somavanshi was shocked and sad at the inhuman treatment meted out to the children. He couldn’t let them practise this anymore. Immediately, he made a three-step plan to make Umaria malnutrition free district. He named this initiative ‘Sanjeevini’ and it included creating awareness about the superstition as well as providing good nutrition to the children.
Mr Somavanshi initially faced many challenges in convincing the people to bring their children to the nearest Nutrition Rehabilitation Centres (NRCs). To make this a serious campaign, he announced that FIR would be lodged against those who failed to do so and continued with their earlier methods. This had the desired effect on the people and they started to bring the children at the NRCs. In an interview Mr. Somavanshi said that people used to believe the local quacks more than the doctors, but their belief changed after they started visiting the NRCs and witnessed the benefits in the children’s condition. Through word of mouth, people started believing in doctors more.
Giving Up Office ACs
The heatwave during the summers is a big problem in Umaria. When Mr. Somavanshi was visiting one of the NRCs, he noticed that the admitted children are very uncomfortable there. He immediately gave orders for installing air conditioners (ACs) in the centres. But he also realised that the actual installation of the machines would take time. He couldn’t just leave those children in that condition and wait. So, he gave up the ACs of his office and immediately installed them in the centres. He got a lot of praise and love for this act.
Mr Somavanshi is no longer the DC of Umaria. Nevertheless, he remains a big talking point in the district, and people recall with sense of gratitude what all he had done for the children of Umaria.
END OF THE ARTICLE