Courtesy : www.hindustantimes.com
The ongoing immunization drive against Japanese Encephalitis has stumbled upon a major roadblock in Muslim inhabited localities of Jharkhand’s coal belt Dhanbad and Bokaro districts.
Superstitious mobs have taken immunization workers hostage and also thrashed them for ”forcibly” administering medicines to children to suppress their fertility and check the Muslim population.
Justifying the manhandling incidents, a section of Muslim leaders in the two districts have gone on to allege that the health workers were executing a ploy by the BJP governments in the Centre as well as in the state to make Muslim children ”impotent” and ”infertile”.
The attacks have left health workers, mostly auxiliary midwives (ANM) and sahiya (rural health workers) panicky as majority of them have decided not to visit Muslim localities until they are provided security.
The attacks on ANM and sahiyas were first reported from Chilamgaddha and Tilaiyajara villages in Jaridih block of Bokaro district last weekend. Sahiyas were held hostage for hours for immunizing Muslim school kids without seeking their parents’ consent.
The agitated parents left off the ANMs and sahiyas after intervention of the higher authorities.
Last week in Wasseypur, a Muslim-dominated area in Dhanbad district, irate residents assaulted health workers for administrating vaccine to kids in Pandarpala high school.
“The government is conspiring to make Muslim children impotent through the vaccine,” said Md Idris, an agitated guardian.
Another guardian, refusing to be identified, said, “The government may not consider us fools…. but we are alert and aware of their nefarious designs towards Muslims.”
Immunization against Japanese Encephalitis is being carried out in nine districts of Jharkhand including Jamshedpur ( East Singhbhum), Dhanbad , Bokaro, Chatra, Garhwa, Hazaribagh, Latehar, Ramgarh and Seraikela. The campaign began on April 11, and children from one year to 15 years were administered the vaccine.
Health department has targeted schools to achieve the targets.
Japanese Encephalitis is a serious infection which spreads through mosquito bite causing fever, headache and other diseases.
Dhanbad civil surgeon Dr Chandrambika Srivastava admitted that confusion among a particularly community over immunization has emerged as a major hurdle to achieve the target.
“Awareness is the only way out to spell the myth. We are sending or staffs to Muslim localities to educate the people on the benefits of immunization and remove plaguing confusion from their minds,” she said.
Educated Muslims and social activists too conceded that the community elders and few illiterate and ignorant populaces are skeptical about the Japanese Encephalitis immunization drive.
Zubair Alam, vice president of the Coalfield Muslim Yatim Khana, said, “The BJP is in power both at the Centre and state. Muslims do not trust the intentions of the BJP towards the community. Since kids in schools are being vaccinated without consent of guardians rumors are making round that such drive is being done to check Muslim population.”
He said that unlike in the past, when the government advertised a lot before launching polio and Mission Indradhanush, the Japanese Encephalitis vaccination drive was launched “silently” and hence the rumours.
Dr Praveen Chandra, director in-chief (health) of the Jharkhand government, said officials of all district health departments have been directed to involve intellectual and religious leaders of the region to win the guardians’ confidence and removing the plaguing misconceptions from their minds.
“During the last round of polio immunization, similar problems had surfaced in Garhwa and other districts. Intellectual and religious leaders were roped in dispel the myths among Muslims.”
He said Japanese Encephalitis was a fatal disease and only 20 % survive despite treatment. Hence, immunization is essential.
Muslim Welfare Committee president Anwar Ali Khan said that if there is some kind of confusion in society about a health programme, the government should spread awareness and clarify things instead of rushing with its programmes to achieve targets.