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Branding children: Inhuman practice continues in Gajapati district of Odisha

The superstitious practice of branding children still exists among many communities, especially in rural India. Recently, over 50 children suffered burn injuries after being branded with hot iron in Purunapani panchayat under Udayagiri block in the Gajapati district of Odisha in less than two months. The children, mostly girls, were only one to two years.

The Villagers in the area believe that branding protects their children from illness and evil. So they take their children to quacks and traditional healers to brand them. They follow their age-old traditional practice as they often find it difficult to take their children to far-off hospitals for treatment. The ritual of branding starts from the Makar Sankranti festival. As all children cannot be branded during Makar Sankranti the ritual continues for a couple of more months.

Branding is the process by which a mark or symbol is burned into the skin of a person. It is usually done with a red hot iron. Usually, children are subjected to branding at a very early age.

R Udayagiri sarpanch Sanjukta Pujari said it is common practice in the area to brand children. She too was branded in her childhood. She said she is against this practice and described it as inhuman. She also said several appeals were made to the people not to believe in this superstition but to no avail.

The inhuman practice can be stopped only if people living in remote places have easy access to medical attention. If they have easy access to hospitals they need not depend on quacks or traditional healers. Apart from this, they need proper awareness so that may refrain from putting their children in so much pain in the name of tradition.

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