Faith healing in Garhwal region of Uttarakhand

Faith Healing in Garhwal Region of Uttarakhand

A Research by Vikas Singh Submitted to Azim Premji University 2015

 

Content Number

1 Acknowledgment

2 Executive summery

3 Key words

4 Introduction

5 Methodology

6 Reflection on field work and proposal

7 Objectives/Answering three major questions of the study

Findings as per three primary questions

9 Faith healers responses

10 Responses from patients summarized

11 Temple healing

12 Conclusion and Recommendations-

13 References

Faith Healing

Acknowledgement –

First of all I would like to thank my field mentor ShriHarilalaMadhvan whose tireless support and continues guidance made this study possible. Without his guidance I could not have even framed my research question let alone conducting research. I would thank all five faith healers who allowed me to take their interviews and who shared their valuable knowledge with me Shri Ratan Mani Nautiyal, Shri Matvar Singh, Shantu Das, Shibba Das and Sumer Singh Panwar. I would thank all the respondents those were integral part of this study. I would also extend my respects to the temples I visited during my research as it gave me a mesmerizing feeling that enchanted me. Last but not least I would thank Azim Premji University for helping me conduct this study.

Executive Summary

I conducted my research in three districts of Uttarkhand namely TehriGarhwal (Jaunpur region), Uttarkanshi (NoganvPurola region) and Dehradun (Jaunsar region). Respondents were mostly tribal and OBCs (Uttarkhand has a different state OBC policy in which a whole area can be marked as OBC based on their cultural, social and economic statuses), however some respondents from general category are also included in study. In this study 5 faith healers from different places and with different areas of specialization (as they call it) and with different knowledge of faith healing methods have been interviewed thoroughly, with 17 patients those have used faith healing as a measure to treat their diseases. In the course of my two months independent study on faith healing I encountered many aspects of faith healing which will be explained further in the paper.

 

Keywords-Faith Healing, Tantrik, Modern Medicine, Garhwal, Jaunsar, Jaunpur, Rituals, Sacrifices, Mantra, Medicine.

Introduction-

 

It is believed that treatment of human body started with no medicine but with supernatural measures. Humans have always been very close to nature since time immemorial, hence linked every event, occurrence and happening with nature which was but obvious. If things are in proper order and they are getting good amount of yields, fruits, meat, shelter and their body is healthy then it was considered blessings of the local deities and spirits, but at contrary if they are not well, their land is struck with famine or some natural disasters have come upon them,then it was certainly considered to be the wrath of the local deities or spirits, thus started various ritualistic practices to please nature by various sacrifices. These sacrifices were of fruits, grains, animals and sometimes human sacrifice too to avoid disasters, famine and to treat ailments.“History of Indian Healing Tradition” an article states that many ailments were treated by ritualistic practices in Vedic era.Indian medical tradition, itself has been divided into two streams which are folk (it includes knowledge of local herbs, roots and different practices of faith healing) and classical (institutionalized system like Ayurveda, Sidha etc.).

Even in 21st century a vast number of people believe in faith healing and go for it. There are many communities in India those whose doctors come with feather, smoke and Mantras not stethoscope. Like Gond community in Andhara, Bhotiya in Uttarkhand etc.In “Indigenous Medicine and Health Care among Paite Tribe of Manipur” NemianngiaGuitewrites about local heath tradition and a significant part of the book deals with faith healing in detail. A. N. Narayanan Nambi and Antonio Morandi write in their book named ‘An Integrated View of Health and Well-being, Bridging India and Western Knowledge’ that faith healers derive their knowledge from dreams, intuitions and environmental surroundings.

Similarly Garhwal is not an exception to faith healing. Garhwal, a part of the Himalayan state Uttarkhand, has a rich tradition of faith healing so much so that even major problems like snake bite, viral fever, jaundice etc. are being treated by faith healers. People of this place still believe on witches and they say that witches are so expert in their work that they can eat all the internal organs of a person while giving even a single not cut to the body and eventually that person will die. They find faith healers only solution for it. These faith healers are widely respected in the region especially in rural areas.

 

A local journalist of Uttarkhand (The Tribune) Ajay Ramola writes in an article that priests, faith healers have played a crucial role in their traditional medicine. The knowledge of their tradition is based on teacher student system that passes knowledge one generation to another. Some intellectuals believe that wild animals have played an important role in enhancing their knowledge. Ajay also writes that when he interviewed Birsu Das from Chakrata region of District Dehradun, he said that his grandfather used to keep a divine stone with him whom he used for the treatment of snake bite or spider bite.

A renowned writer of Uttarakhand Mr. Ratan Singh Jaunsariwrites in his book “Jaunsar and Babar, IkSanskritik, ArthikAvamSamajikAdhyan” that area of Jaunsar, Ravain, Babar and Jaunpur have always been under the influence of faith healing since the time immemorial. He also writes about how people end up losing their lives after getting stuck in the trap of faith healers. But he also writes about the miracles of temples that have treated innumerable patient. Dr. VachaspatiMaithani also writes about the same subject matter in his book “Garahwal Himalaya Ke Dev Sansktriti”.

 

 

Methodology-

It is an entirely qualitative study. I conducted in-depth interviewers with five faith healer and 17 patients. Although almost entire study was based on unstructured interviews which were but conversations. However I also followed some structural questions as well to stick to the subject. I spent 4 to 6 days with each faith healer to get thorough knowledge about faith healing. I only focused on primary data which was collected by me. In order to do justice to my study I read two books written by Ratan Singh Jaunsariand a book of Dr. Vachspatito know about local customs and culture and how faith healing is a part of it. I also read some other articles.

 

Reflection on field work and proposal-

When I wrote my proposal it was more like a vague concept. I was myself not confident what I was going to do. But with help of my mentor I was able to write that proposal. I tried to stick to my proposal but it was quite difficult for me to stick to it. I had to compromise in many ways such as I was keen to conduct unstructured interview but had to drop the idea as I was not getting proper answer to my questions. I was assuming in start that it was going to be an easy task for me as I saw no complexities in it. But on field I had deal with many issues and one of such was making people give interview about faith healing. As they were shy and hesitant to answer my question. Some were little offended by me as they thought I may criticize their culture later in my study. But I managed to cope up with the situation as I managed to speak their language. At the same time I met people those who show tremendous support for my study. Overall I put my hard to stick to my topic as lots of new topics were coming in my mind.

 

Objectives-

 

The study revolves around three major questions those are interlinked and are supplementary to each other (My objective was to find answers to them). Answers to these questions are based on observations, learning and respondent’s responses.These questions are following-

I. What is the scope and role of faith healing in local healing system in the field area? Analyzed from the perspective of faith healers and their clients.

II. How these faith healers are establishing their legitimacy?

III. What are the major factors leading to higher demand for faith healers- even though there is development in bio-medical science, sophisticated modern technology and dissemination of modern medical systems?

To get clear answer to these questions one must not stick to the three following answers but should also analyses whole study paper.My objective of this study was to look into many dimensions of faith healing and to observe different aspects of it that were mainly social, economic and cultural.

 

Findings as per three primary questions-

 

1 Scope and role of faith healing in local health system

This question cannot be directly answered as the responses of respondents were vague in nature. To understand role and scope of faith healing thoroughly, local health system must be understood first. Local health tradition of the area is a mix of Ayurveda and TantraVidhya(A supernatural way to treat ailments). Faith healing in the area not only includes Tantra Mantra, different sacrifices but also includes local herbs, roots, wild fruits etc. And there is a wide variety of faith healers with many specializations,some are experts of casting away evil eye, some only deals with jaundice, some know the Mantra of Snake and Scorpion bite, some are specialized in treating stomach related problems etc. Therefore almost every demand can be fulfilled by these faith healers. They have different methods of healing people which will be explained in detail in further sections of this study paper.

A tribe called Jaunsari (Dehradun district) which is one the five tribal groups of Uttarakhand uses faith healing as their primary health measure.Faith healing is still a prominent system of healing in area. Though a great shift has come in people’s behavior with commence of primary health care facilities. Education has also played a significant role in making people aware about demerits of faith healing or has exposed them to new scientific methods of treatment. Health camps like polio, eye checkup and immunization by government and some other private charity groups of doctors, Rotary Club members are being held in area time to time. Thus it has helped in spreading health awareness among locals which has shaken the roots of faith healers but because of government and state administration failure expected change are not gaining speed. Most of the time doctors do not come to the hospital as they have to come from cities (although some doctors live in nearby towns). In general doctors do not wish to get posted in hilly regions because of its geographical issues. And this gives a golden opportunity to faith healer to reclaim their territory or their patients.

 

Hence it can be concluded that though the future of faith healing is not bright but at the same time scope of faith healing is still there as people still have more faith on the people whom they meet daily, to whom they can reach easily, and with whom they can talk on daily basis. They treat their daily ailments with the help of faith healers. If someone gets fever by being frightened by something which they call spirit then that person or his family will directly approach to a faith healer and get some chanted ash or water from him. But to my astonishment some faith healers and some rural people revealed that cause of fever need not always be a vision of evil spirit but a person may get frightened by bush, shadow, seeing a dead body, with the sound of thunder bolt orin day time in valley nearby water spring which they called “Gadera” etc. may cause him or her fever. This in some way or the other affirms that human psychology plays a vital role in health related issues. So in this case they never go to a doctor but trust a faith healer who charges nothing for his chanted ash which is called “Bhabhut” and water which is called “MantrienPani” or “Chanted Water” and as they said this makes them well within a day or two. But if situation is really worse,then they go would approach medical health as last resort (though in some cases last resort is faith healers).

2 Establishment of legitimacy by faith healers

When it comes to the establishment of legitimacy, faith healers are very expert in that.It has already been mentioned that most of my study is conducted in tribal and OBC areas of Uttarakhand. Most of the people of these areas were never under British Empire (though in the year of 1816 some part of Dehradun district came under British Raj while other remained in the kingdom of Garhwalunder the kingship of Tehri’s King who was considered as a representative of lord Badrinath). Hence the area remained untouched by Britishers and no advancement in terms of infrastructure, roads, education, and health etc.could take place in the area.Education was only restricted to some “Brahmans” not all (not literary but Brahmans were ones those who were interested in getting themselves educated. Life of hilly region is so tough that others castes did not have time to get involved in educational related activities as they had to work really hard to meet their end needs. Although some highly rich Rajputs also received education if they wanted). While for others source of their education was their parents. Because it was a hilly area so there were very few schools and that too were located in administrative cities or in pilgrimages like Haridwar and Hrishikesh. And same was the condition of hospitals and health care education. Mussoorie and Dehradun two major developed city (as of then and in terms of education and health care services) were under British rule therefore access to these two was also a subject to great difficulties. Hence area remained untouched till 1949 when it was merged in republic of India. Therefore faith healer and Vaidhyas were the ones patients vested their trust on.

The area is OBC and ST thus they have been given some privileges to perform their cultural rites. And faith healing has gotten the shelter of such privileges. There is no control over its practice in the area. The only intervention which is done in area to make people aware about its ill effects is done by TV and Radio not by government machinery. Situation is such that even MLA and ministers are clients of faith healer and have an unflinching faith in them. A well know Politician of the area with the condition of confidentiality revealed that his daughter was suffering with some mental health issue and he had checked with many doctors and psychiatrists they gave medicine which could not stop her visions which as he said she used to perceive. Her problem was so severe that she would walk to the wild at any time of day or night, she behaved in a strange way and sometimes all of a sudden used to get wet in sweat and her body would shiver with fever. This went on for about two years with medication but eventually with the advice of someone he approached a Tantric faith healer who performed an old Tantric rituals in his house for 7 days and at the end of the day he performed his Tantric worship nearby a spring and at a squareat night where he offered some grains, pulse, a piece of cloth, bronze plate and sacrifice of an hen. He gave some chanted ash, some rice grains to eat at the morning and at night and a piece of root with one “Tabiz”with some instructions. He said that they followed his instructions and their daughter got healed. In return to his service they gave faith healer a large amount of money with grains, pulses and eatables.

 

This might be a case of psychological satisfaction which led her to get treated but when an appealing and well known Politician shares this story with so much confidence to other common people then definitely people will get attracted and their trust on faith healers will become more strong. And this in some way or the other legitimizes faith healing when these faith healers have a good number of clients those who belong to an upper strata of the society.

3 Major factors leading to higher demand for faith healers

It cannot be claimed that there is a higher demand for faith healers however they are a significant part of local health tradition of the area. They still have a large share of patients. Following are the reasons why faith healers are still in demand in spite of significant bio-medical advancement, availability of resources etc.

Lack of Education

 

Lack of proper education is a most prominent reason that is keeping demand of faith healing alive. Though for the sake of reading and writing most of the people are literate but there is a huge difference between being literate and being educated. People in this part of geography link every disease with spirits, gods, fairies and ghosts. They believe in Tantras and Mantras. Even if a person is bitten by snake he would be taken to a faith healer who deals with snake bite. Although in my study 4 respondents suffered snake bite and they said they did not go for medical treatment but went to faith healer who treated them. In these cases it might the possibility that snakes might not have be venomous.

Trust

Trust is another leading factor to faith healer’s demand. These faith healer are from same society itself and they meet their potential patients quite frequent which builds a trust in them. People believe that faith healing works and healers possesses this knowledge of treatment which mostly they pass on to the male member of the family and this legacy goes on.

Economically viable

Treatment by faith healing is much cheaper than compared to modern medical system which includes doctor’s fees, medicine fees, travel cost which usually is higher. Although government hospitals are cheap and charges only insignificant amount of hospital fees but most of the time they prescribe medicines from outside which are again costly.Hence if the people from this place catches fever or seasonal flew then they tend to get chanted ash and water from a person from their own village for free of cost and gets treated.Almost all people of the area get their jaundice treated by faith healers who mostly do not charge anything but advise them to eat a particular kind of food stuff. And treatment of jaundice in a government and private hospital may cost them a lot. And there are many other diseases for which people approach faith healers first, then doctor if the case is serious. This also should be understood and taken into consideration that their practices are not solely based on Mantra chanting but they also use herbs, roots, leaves of some plants that may have some medicinal quality which helps in treating diseases. Nevertheless some faith healer those who practice sheer Tantra system and prescribe on animal sacrifice may cost more than the modern medical treatment may have otherwise cost. But fortunately very few people goes to such Tantrics.

 

Geographical constraints

This area has its own geographical constraints such as roads are not well maintained and gets blocked even in a single heavy rain. And once the roads are blocked it may take many days to construct it again for traffic.Every village doesn’t enjoy proper road connectivity thus when someone falls sick he is bound to go to the faith healer for primary treatment. And faith healers take advantage of this situation especially in winter and rainy season.

Culturally bound

Faith healing has been an integral part of their culture since time immemorial. And they have unflinching and unalloyed faith on their local God whom they call “Mahasu”, “Botha”, “Bathtu” etc. They believe that their local demigods can treat everything and it is evident in their local songs in which they thank their demigods for keeping them healthy and treating their disease. People of this area possess a strange old scripture which is written in their language that a common man can barely understands. This book includes many methods of faith healing and pleasing deities. The book is regarded very sacredly hence people have conferred their trust in it.I as of now there are very few books are remaining as most of them are either destroyed or lost. People in this area also believes that if their family is continuously getting some kind of disease or meeting accidents then it might be because of the wrath of their family or local God. To please their local deity people go to faith healers. They believe that merely pleasing their deity with prescribed offerings their ailments will get vanished.

 

Faith healers responses-

In this study I interviewed five faith healers to know different aspects of faith healing, their perspective towards it and how do they treat their patients etc. Part of the same is summarized below.

 

1 RatanmaniNautiyal

Ratanmani is 77 years old educated Vaidya who also practices faith healing. He is from Kudaun village of Jaunpur reason of TehriGarhwal district. He belongs to a Brahmin family and also is priest at his village’s temple. He is a Vaidya therefore he treats almost every disease with his traditional knowledge. He mostly uses local herbs, medicinal plants, roots of some bushes which carry medicinal qualities etc. to treat his patient but sometimes he also uses Mantras for treatment. He charges 100 rupees as his prescription fees and charges for his medicines are additional. He has a good number of ever growing clients. Ratanmani claims that most of the people come to him after they are done with doctor and allopathic medicines. And he treats their diseases which even doctor could not treat. Upon the question of faith healing he told me that being a Brahmin he knows some Mantras and rituals which can treat disease like mental depression, weakness, constant body pain, GrahDasha (that cause distress, illness or may result in injuries etc.). However he believes that medicines are more effective and powerful than Mantras.

2 Matwar Singh Rawat

Matwar Singh Rawat is a 76 years old man. He belongs to Dwargrah village of TehriGarhwal district. He is Rajput by birth and studied up to 5thstandards with which he was apparently the only person of his age who studied up to 5thstandards. He was a post master in his young age and resigned the job for village head man post. He has good knowledge of the area in terms of its history, cultural practices, festivals, tradition, local flora fauna etc. And because of his vast knowledge of the area he used tobe invited by well-known institutions of Mussoorie such as LalBahadurShashtri Academy, Wood Stock International School etc. to give lecture on Garhwal history, culture and issues related to Garhwal etc.As far as his faith healing knowledge is concerned he gives chanted water and “Bhabhut” or chanted ash to people suffering with little fever, body pain or are frightened with some object, sound or spirit.To get chanted water a person has to bring a glass of water, Cow Urine with “Dub Ghas” which is a sacred grass and also used in fire sacrifices. He mixes some “Ganga Jal” water of holy Ganges and “GowMutra” cow urine in that water and then roles the grass in water slowly with chanting some mantra in his mouth which are indistinct to ears.He does it for five minutes then gives it to the patient tells him or her not to put down the pot of water and sprinkle it around the body of the patient and if your fever doesn’t get subsided then visit the doctor. For making “Bhabhut” he chants “Hanuman Chalisa” and some other mantras in it. Bhabhut is meant to apply on body. He said he charges nothing for it and do it as a free service or act of gratitude to the God.

When I asked him about his Mantras then he revealed one interesting thing to me that he had learnt this water chanting Mantra from his maternal uncle who was the only person in that village to know this method. He didn’t have any children hence he passed his legacy to his nephew. But he told me that in actual he had forgotten the whole Mantra years ago as it is a long prayer, he remembers only some part of it.I asked him about its effects on patients, for this he related that he only satisfies people’s faith and fear. People believe that some evil eye has casted her ill effects on them and the chanted water and ash can save them therefore they come to take it. And once they are satisfied psychologically their mind makes their body well. He said he doesn’t reveal it to them because if he does so then they may approach another faith healer who may cheat them by prescribing many things and charging them a heavy amount of money. So if they don’t get well then they directly go to the doctor not to other faith healer which is good for them.He concluded that a firm faith, trust, positive thinking and strong belief help in the treatment of diseases. He related that a mentally depressed person loses his skin color, black patches appears on his or her face, his or her body gets weak and loses weights etc. and a positive wave, positive thinking and a belief can get them back to their beautiful body.

3 Shibba Das

Shibba Das is a 50 years old man from Ponti village of Uttarkanshi district. He is illiterate and belongs to a backward caste. He is a Tantric faith healer who says that every disease is caused by wrath of the God, ghos, witches, fairies etc.I went to him meet him to his home.He had a considerably well-furnished big house that is not common with every Tantrik. I asked him about Tantra techniques and how does he comes to know that a particular person is cursed by a particular person’s curse or by ghosts, witches etc. He said he is a devotee of “Devi” goddess and “Devi” helps him know the cause of a particular disease. He said that he also calls upon spirits and asks them what they need for leaving the patient’s body. He showed an old book to me which I could not read though it was written in Dev Nagari script but had some other characters to. He makes people see things in oil pots. At first he uses black pulse and rice grains and scatters it on a plate and asks questions to the plate by throwing grains on it and then calculates it. He uses many methods in order to heal someone. After knowing the reason of the disease he performs a Tantric worship. In order to complete the worship most of the time he proposes animal sacrifice with other valuable articles.He also charges a considerably huge amount of money from his patients. And this is the only occupation his does.

4 Sumer Singh Panwar

 

Sumer Singh Panwaris a 66 years old shop keeper in Laksiyar village of Jaunsar, Dehradun district. He is a well-known faith healer in the area and treats jaundice. He also belongs to a Rajput family. People from all over Jaunsar, Bavar and Jaunpur approach him for jaundice treatment. He charges no money for it and practices it only on Fridays and Sundays. These are the days he says that his Mantra works to full of its potential. He says he learnt it from his father who used to be the well-known jaundice healer in the area.He says when a person approaches him with jaundice he makes him or her sits on a wooden stool and takes out his bunch of some grass or some kind of bush and then roles it around patient’s body many times along with indistinct chanting of Mantras. He gives no medicine to the patient but he advises him or her not to take food which have hot potency or are hot in nature. The patient is also restricted to eat oily and spicy food. He said that a person has to come three times to him to get treated. He also uses one another method in which he makes patient sit in same posture as earlier and puts an oil plate in front of him and then roles a poisonous grass on his head and does it several times that’s how he treats jaundice. And he also does it for free.

5 Shantu Das

Shantu Das is a 59 years old man, who calls himself drummer of god. He is a faith healer and deals with various ailments like disease, evil eye, fever, body pain, fevers in infants etc. but the major crisis he deals with is snake bite. Although these days, due to the spread of health awareness some people take a snake bite case to hospitals but most of the people are taken to faith healers. But as I came to know from the people most of the snake bite patient taken to hospital do not survive as hospitals are very far. Hence most of the people are taken to faith healers to get treated. When a patient with snake bite is taken to Shantu Das he firstly ties a cloth right above the area where there are marks of snake’s teeth to prevent poison reaching whole body. Then he puts the patient in a big basket kind of thing made up of bamboo. After one is put in the basket no one is allowed to touch the patient.Shantu Das gives a lot of Cow Gee to patient to drink. At last he takes a feather of eagle and chants Mantras while rolling it on patient’s body and in this way he treats snake bite. He told me that most of the people who are brought to him get treated but sometimes when a person is brought to him happened to be already dead. But he believes that if a person has to die that person would die in few hours of snake bite but once a person is brought to him he never lets that person die.Interestingly he charges nothing for the treatment of snake bite but for other ailments he takes Dakshina.

Responses from the patients summarized

 

I interviewed 17 people those who had been through faith healing at some point of their lives. I cannot go on describing every single person’s response. Hence I would be summarizing all the responses by analyzing and understanding all of them. Responses which I got from people were mostly contradictory to each other. As some people said that they believe in faith healing and got treated by it while others said that they used to believe on it which led them get deceived by faith healer and loss of a significant amount of money. Such was the case of Hukum Singh Kaintura. He is a farmer with uncertain economic condition. He shared his story that about 11 years back his daughter committed suicide by drinking poison. And right after that his another daughter caught sever fever. He said he went to a local doctor but his daughter’s condition could not improve. Therefore he was advised by villagers and relatives to approach a faith healer as they were afraid that some evil eye has casted her negative energies on his family. He went to Shibba Das, I have already discussed about him. He told him to perform animal sacrifice with some goods which included cloth, bronze plate, some gold, eatables etc. He did everything but nothing happened, he went to another faith healer and same story was repeated again. And thus he was looted by two faith healers. He said he had to borrow a big amount of money from his relatives and friends to get all the ceremonies done. In one other case where Suresh Singh says his father was attacked by paralysis hence they approach not one but many faith healers to get him treated but nothing worked rather they lost a huge amount of money. There were many such other cases in which Tantrik faith healers ransackedinnocent people. Yet on the other hand some respondent said that their diseases were treated by faith healers while doctors failed to treat or find out what the disease.Vikram Singh Rawat from BarkotUttarkansi district. Who is a well-educated guy and have worked under a renowned lawyer said that once his 1 year old girl fell sick and her condition was serious they took her to both government and private hospitals in Mussoorie and Dehradun but no doctor could trace the disease. All of them said that girl was alright with good weight and other health indicators. But he says she was not well and many times turned blue and cold. She would go unconscious for many minutes and cry for hours. Hence he used to put BhagwadGeeta on her head which calmed her for a moment. Then he took her to Shantu who gave him a Tabij with some holy ash that he was told to apply on girl’s forehead. He did it for 7 days. And this process healed his daughter.

Shusila Devi from Jaunsar said that her son was born, 10 years after her marriage after they performed a worship at Bhavani(Shakti) Temple. Almost same responses I got from the people for some it became boon while other it turned out to be a bane.

 

Temple Healing

Temple healing is also prevalent in area as people are more god conscious in area. They have their local gods whom they callChalda, Bhotha, Pabasik, Basik etc. These deities have their own ancient temples. The famous temples are Hanol, Basoi, Laksiyar, Lakhward, etc. People have enormous faith in these deities so much so that they settle their land, jewelry and other legal disputes in the temple. Not only disputes but these temples also help in treating diseases which even doctors failed to treat (this is what respondent believed). People with mental health issues, pregnancy problems, skin diseases, leprosy etc. visit temple and asks benedictions from deities. They often take vow that if their desire is realized they then they would offer a certain number of sheep, Goat, gold coins or some other sacrifice to temple deity.Many of people I talked said that deities have power to treat any ailments and they had seen many people healed by the grace of deities.Temple Prasadam is often taken as medicine. A temple of Bhavani Devi is famous for bestowing children to the couples those who are devoid of children. The popularity of the temple can be understood by this that WWE start The Great Khali also visits the temple whenever he comes to India in hope of begetting a child.At contrary these deities also cause diseases mainly leprosy if they are offended by adherents.

 

Conclusion and Recommendations-

 

There cannot be an absolute answer to the question whether or so faith healing should be included in local health tradition and given some respect or should be rejected entirely. It has its pros and cons but at same time allopathic or modern medicines also have its pros and cons. It’s a debatable topic but as far as I saw the condition of faith healers have changed very drastically from past few decades especially of Tantric healers (and those who charge money), they have become richer than ever before. In early days these healers used to receive a fixed amount of grains after each crop harvesting, therefore no money was involved in the process of treatment (if there was then only 5 or 10 paisa that to for the sake of performing rituals) but these days they charge significantly large amount. I also observed that only lower caste healers charge money but upper caste healers do not charge even a single penny. It might be because they (Healers those who belong to SCs community) don’t have any other source of income. Faith healing has ruined many people’s lives who invested their lifelong property in the process of getting healed through faith healing and sometimes they end up losing their loved ones but at the same time there were people who are obliged to faith healer as they were ones who treated their untreatable (by modern medicine) diseases. Though faith healing should not be endorsed but people like Matvar Singh and Ratan Mani can save many people’s time and money. There are faith healers who charge nothing and people see positive effects of their treatment. There should be a distinction between Tantrik faith healing and non Tantrik faith healing. Faith healing can also be divided in many parts. It can have various types. Some may be effective and devoid of deception while others may be opposite to it. But there should be more in-depth study on faith healing without any biasness.

 

References-

 Antonio Morandi, A N Narayanan “An Integrated view of Health and Well-being bridging India and Western Knowledge”. Chapter 7 “Health and well-being in Indian local health tradition”. Spring Cordrecht Heidelberg New York.

 Upinder Singh, NayanjotLahiri, Ancient India: New Research, Oxford University Press, India 2010.

 Zysk,K. Medicine in the Veda: Religious healing in the Veda MotilalBanarisidas, Delhi 1996.

 NemthianngaiGuite “Indigenous Medicine and Health Care among Paite Tribe of Manipur”. Concept Publishing Company PVT. LTD. New Delhi – 110059.

 Ajay Ramola, “Bountiful cures in Good Shepherd’s own land” The Tribune Uttarakhand Community. July 27 2015

 Unnikrishnan E, “MateriaMedica of the Local Health Tradition of Payyarnnur”, Centre for Development Studies, Kerala Research Programme on Local Level Development, Thiruvananthapuram. 2004.

 Dr. Larry Culliford, “History of Indian Healing Tradition, Science and society.

 Dr. VachspatiMaithani, “Garhwal Himalaya Ki Dev Sanskriti” Gandhi Hindustani Sabha Sanidhi, Rajghat Delhi. 2004

 Ratan Singh Jaunsari, “Jaunasar Babar, IkSanskritikAvamSamajikAdhayann”, Geetanjali Press Dehradun. 2006

 

Links which helped me in my study

 http://www.cds.ac.in/krpcds/publication/downloads/80.pdf

 http://www.ijph.in/temp/IndianJPublicHealth574212-1426169_035741.pdf

 http://www.tribuneindia.com/news/uttarakhand/bountiful-cures-in-good-shepherd-s-own-land/111697.html

 https://www.ncbs.res.in/HistoryScienceSociety/content/overview-indian-healing-traditionsNote-All websites have been accessed from September 2015 to October 2015

 

Email Id – vikas.singh7hk@gmail.com

Qualitative Study on 36 Anganwadi Centres of LakhimpurKheri District, Uttar Pradesh

 Can be also read at 

Brinks of economic thoughts.

 

Qualitative Study on 36 Anganwadi Centres of Lakhimpur Kheri District, Uttar Pradesh

 

Year 2016 – 2017

A study by

Vikas Singh

District Nutrition Specialist

LakhimpurKheri Uttar Pradesh

Uttar Pradesh Technical Support Unit (IHAT)

Key Words

Anganwadi Centre, AWC, Anganwadi Worker, AWW, Take Home Ration, THR, Nutrition,HosalaPoshanYojana, Pregnant women, Children, Hot Cooked Meal

Abstract

This paper is an attempt to discuss some ground realities of Aganwadi Centres situated in the largest district of Uttar Pradesh that is LakhimpurKheri. It talks about the overall condition of AWCs, be it infrastructure or services that are generally provided at centre. The Dataused in this paper was gathered from 36AWC’s of 4 rural blocks of the district on the basis of random sampling.

The overall infrastructure in general is found impaired and services were not running properly due to several financial and social reasons. Thus the paper will deeply investigate on sampled AWCs.

Introduction

ICDS is the world’s largest scheme started back in 1975 to deliver 6 basic yet vital services. The schemes can be identifiedas an updated version of Balbadi Scheme which was started by Government of India under its Social and Welfare Department in 1970. Although the scheme has been quite successful in years as improvement in birth weight, reduction in MMR, IMR and improvement in nutrition status of children have been recorded through many surveys and research papers. However in some statesthe scheme has not shown satisfactory results. And one such state is Uttar Pradesh. In many instances the State Government has been supported by many NGOs and independent organizations to scale up the performance of this ambitious program. Nevertheless the situation remained same or there have been some insignificant improvement in service delivery and implementation part.

India’s Child Nutrition status still remains very disappointing while some other Third World countries are doing way better than us. According to Nation Family Health Survey – 3 about 48% children under the age of 5 were found stunted. And about 44% children in India are malnourished. If the situation remains same as discussed in paper then the future of District’s (Uttar Pradesh’s in particular) Nutrition status doesn’t seem pleasing.

The study is a thorough exploration of current AWCs functioning and ICDS service implementation in selected Centres. The study is an attempt to discover if AWC possesses instruments and articles which it should have like weighing machine, growth chart etc. It also attempts to examine if the status of HosalaPoshanYojana.

Methodology

This was a purely qualitative study in which 36 different Aangawadi centres were chosen on the basis of random sampling. The selected centres belonged to 4 rural blocks of the district. Named Phulbehad, Isangar, Nighasan and Fardan.

This study followed a structured interview pattern in which aquestionnaire of 35 questions was carried by the interviewer at the time of AWC visit. The questionnaire was divided into four subdivisions of which each one dealt with a certain theme or service. All the questions in questionnaire were close ended in nature.

Interviewer spent a quality time at centre and observed the centre’s activities and its surroundings.

Findings

As I went to centres without prior information. I found many AWCs closed or not opened on scheduled time. Many of the AWWs were living in district headquarter which in some cases is 50 to 60 Km. far from the allotted centres. Astonishingly I found one AWC which was never opened since its inception. I went further and asked Sahayika about this then she shared that AWW never opens centre. Although she has been warned and instructed by her lady supervisor and CDPO many times but she refuse to follow their instructions. Nevertheless most of the centres were open.

I also found that AWWs lack basic knowledge of counselling and most of them are not clear on as to what kind of counselling should be given to a particular group of beneficiaries.

Many AWCs either don’t have weighing machine or the available machine is not functional.

Further I will explain every topic in detail

Infrastructure –

The overall infrastructure of AWCs is disappointing as many of the centres don’t possess their own building and are running in Primary School’s building. The centres those are running in Primary Schools are also not in a good condition because usually the administration of Primary School will give the most impaired room for AWCs. These rooms usually have cracks on floors and walls. These rooms are ideal place for reptiles like lizard and snakes to reside. 4 such centres were found during this study where children were afraid of sitting in the room because many times snakes and scorpions had been spotted in the room. The Children were forced to sit in open that too in scorching hot climate. These rooms don’t have toilets facility therefore children are left with no choice then defecating in open. Primary School also don’t have function toilets and in case if they have then they would not allow AWC’s children to use their toilets.

Situation turn worse when some AWCs don’t have any sort of infrastructure. 8 out of 36 AWWs are running their centres in open. Running a centre in open is always a challenge for AWW because a centre running in open will not have space to store THR (Take home ration) and other articles. AWW would have to carry many register (11 MIS registers and some more) from her house therefore many of the times she don’t bring registers with her. She also cannot always keep weighing machine with her ect. In raining season it is almost next to impossible for an AWW to run centre because of wet floor and no roof over their head. However some AWW’s are so dedicated to their work that they would walk 2 miles every day to open their centre.Even though some of them don’t have any sort of infrastructure.

It was also observed that centres that have their own AWC’s building are also not in good conditions. Most of the AWC’s buildings have started weakening. Toilets of these centres are not functional and even in some case if they are functional then they are not being used by children as they are not allowed to use them. The reason AWWs site is that children will make the toilet dirty. Centres are unhygienic and not kept clean. Even though AWWs have centre building but most of the AWWs don’t keep registers, THR and other articles at centre. They shared thatin many occasions local people had broken the lock and stole away THR and utensils that’s why they usually don’t keep things at centre.

Most of the AWC’s don’t have carpets, stools or chairs which can be used as an object to sit on. Children are forced to sit on bare floors. In winter floors would turn very cold which become a reason for children catching cold and fever. In rainy season the walls and roof would leak thus the whole room gets wet from inside. In this case also it is not safe for children to sit in such a room. For these reasons many parents are reluctant to send their children to centre.

Pre – School Education –

The concept of AWC also includes pre-school education which can be termed as early childhood care and education. The importance of early childhood education was recognized by GOI back in 1975 thus it had included Pre-School Education as one of the six ICDS services. But disappointingly the centres I visited cannot be called a place of pre-school education. Most of the centres don’t have black boards. And if black board is there then AWWs don’t use it as they won’t have chokes. Children are never given toys to play with. Although almost every AWW has PehalPustika a book which includes day wise pre-school activity, such as poems, stories and games etc. However very few AWWs have ever used it. The walls of the centre are usually empty and are not decorated with IEC material as per ICDS guidelines. AWC’s room don’t seem welcoming or warm. It is imaginable that children would learn anything in such centres.

Although 6 centres out of 36 were somehow doing some activities of pre-school education. In these centres I found AWWs were teaching poems and stories to children. Children also knew many poems and stories. They were able to differentiate between different birds and animals. In these centres AWWs were also very active and enjoyed teaching and engaging with children.

It was also found in the survey area of some AWWs that some families work as migrant labourers so in a particular season the family would migrate to some other places in the search of the means of their livelihood. So the children of such family are usually deprived of Pre-school education.

As I discussed above that in some cases parents of the children are also reluctant to send their children to centres because centre are dangerously weakened and having cracks in it which in future can have disasters results. Although these centre are in such a poor condition yet they are not marked dangerous.

Record Registers –

Although AWWs are given 11 MIS registers from department but they don’t know how to use them as AWWs are not trained on MIS registers. Basically AWWs will use few register out of these 11. Most the AWWs maintain their own registers as they are easy for them to fill.

Most of the AWWs have not received new registers and their old ones are filled therefore they are maintaining their own registers. Generally AWWs would fill 6 to 7 register which includes THR register, survey register, delivery register, Pre-school education register also known as attendance register and beneficiary registration register etc. Very few AWWs are maintaining daily dairy. AWWs also don’t know how to use Growth Chart Register hence they are not able to monitor the growth of the children.

Most of the AWWs don’t keep all the registers at the centre as they say that they are afraid that these registers can be stolen. Some centre don’t have proper space to keep the registers as some centre have leakage problem and some don’t have rack or Almirah.

Data Manipulation

  • It was found during visit that AWWs are manipulating data and real data is not been given to department. AWWs would manipulate THR records. They write that almost all the beneficiaries are taking THR which purely is a false data.
  • AWWs are not giving actual number of Mal-nourished or under-weight children. All the AWWs are instructed by their officials that they should mark more number of children as Mal-nourished. Siting one example from one of the visits where one AWW said that in actual only 5 children are Malnourished in survey areas but her supervisor instructed her that she should mark 14 children as malnourished in her survey areas. Thus she recorded 14 children as malnourished while in actually only 5 children suffered malnourishment. This manipulation of data happened with almost every AWW. So trusting government data is also a matter serious debate.
  • Usually few children would come to centre but AWWs will record more attendance on attendance register.

Hot cooked meal and THR –

Though hot cooked meal and THR is an integral part of ICDS services. However despondently no centre was serving hot cooked meal to children except a centre where AWW with her own money was feeding children with meal. This is not a fault from AWWs part but department has not given funds for hot cooked meal since many months.

Sometimes I would also happen that AWWs won’t receive THR from block. In such times most of the children would not come to centre because there is nothing to attract them to centre.

Centre which had THR packets they would distribute it to children at the closing time of the centre (As per ICDS norm it should be distributed as a morning snack) because they found this to be the only way to retain children at centre for a longer duration

HoslaPoshanYojan –

HoslaPoshanYojan is a highly ambitious program of Uttar Pradesh Government which came into existence last year in 2016. The program was intended to fight malnutrition among pregnant women and children. But as far as the observations of this study suggests it is not hard to postulate that the program will not show expected results as the implementation of program is not proper.

Many centres have not received funds for HPY. And the ones those have the funds are having other issues which is hindering the smooth execution of the program. In many centres AWWs from ST or OBC communities are appointed therefore people from General caste would not go to take HPY services in which pregnant women and children are supposed to receive a hot meal at the centre with some amount of Ghee. So caste plays a major role in villages which abstain pregnant women and children from consuming HPY meal. In some centre village’s headman or Pradhan will not release funds which is becoming an impediment in the execution of program. At one centre I found that village Pradhan’s son will come to centre every day and note down the attendance of pregnant women and children present for HPY.AWW shared that earlier when the program was just started he (village Pradhan) released some funds but after that Pradhan never gave even a single rupees to AWW for HPY. Therefore she was not able to cook hot cooked meal. The issue of Pradhan was prevalent in many other centres.

AWWs also suggested that because HYP doesn’t cover whole section of beneficiaries so the left out beneficiaries would create disturbance and blame her for stealing their food. Sometimes they would even fight with AWW that if a certain person is receiving the service then why they are kept out of it.

Conclusion

In conclusion I would like to postulate that the infrastructure of AWCs is pathetically poor and becomes one of the major reasons of improper delivery of ICDS services. Because of lack of good and proper infrastructure children are not coming to centre, things are not kept in centre, children are not receiving Pre-schools education, children are not weighed on regular basis and their growth is not monitored.

These AWCs cannot be called a place where children would learn about health and hygiene rather they are so badly maintain that children would get infection while sitting in the centre. Hygiene is not given importance while distributing snacks to children. Many children would eat snacks on dirty plastic bag which they would get from outside which is enough to make them sick.

Without Hot cooked meal it is impossible to fight hunger and malnutrition because for most of the children it would have been the only decent meal they would have eaten in a day if the hot cooked meal had been distributed. It seems outlandish to imagine improvement in the nutritional level of the children without hot cooked meal. If the department fails to maintain the supply of hot cook meal then the project will not have good results.

Data manipulation is also a major issue which will affect project in long run because when government will not get actual data then strategies which will be planned in future will not be practical on ground or in community.

If the situation remains same as discussed above then ICDS Uttar Pradesh will not be able to perform well at the national level and will not achieve desired results

Recommendations

Although ICDSis a significant project which has really shown some impressive results at national level as it became instrumental in fighting malnutrition. However in the context of Uttar Pradesh the same picture says opposite story. UP still lacks behind in almost every indicator.

As far as this study is concerned I would like make some suggestions which may play a significant role in developing new strategies.

In this course of my study I fund found that some of the Anganwadi workers are rendering their services sincerely. Some of them were walking 2 to 3 miles every day just to open the centre even though one of them didn’t even have a centre building yet everyday she was opening her centre in open. And surprisingly she had a considerable number of children attending centre. If these sincere works are given proper infrastructure, quality training on MIS registers, pre-school education and counselling then they would be able to give quality services to their beneficiaries.

A proper infrastructure itself can increase service delivery and indicators by 30% to 40%. Why I say 30 to 40 percent because almost every service is somehow or the other is directly or indirectly linked with infrastructure. A good infrastructure will accommodate every article which should be there at centre, it will attract children to the centre.

Government should also focus on developing some ideal AWCs where it should have all the facilities including a kitchen garden (as many AWCs in Karnataka have).

Funding and delivery of hot cooked meals should be ensured throughout the year so that children can meet their daily nutrition needs. Along with hot cooked meal government should also distribute some dry fruits, nuts and other edibles to children as (Uttarakhand government does). This will definitely increase the attendance of the children and will help in reducing malnutrition among children. If the department is somehow not able to ensure daily quality hot cooked meal then there can be one simple solution to it. Most of the AWCs are running in Primary Schools or nearby Primary school. Department can come with an idea that the same food which is being cooked for primary school children as mid-day meal can also be served to AWC’s children (Though it won’t have all the nutritious ingredients which that would have otherwise get if the hot cook meal was served at the centre as per ICDS norms yet at least the mid-day meal will meet some of their nutritious needs). Or government can take help from some Independent organizations like AkshayPatrawhich delivers quality food to the children in primary schools in many parts of the country and also in Uttar Pradesh.

HosalaPoshalYojana is a worthy initiative but linkage of Pradhan in the project is hindering its proper implementations, caste and class also plays a major role in rural set up. Therefore government should directly transfer the funds in the account of beneficiaries. Though the question may arise that what if beneficiaries are not using it for the purpose it was meant to be used (Yes it may be the case) but as far as I believe through my field experience it is the only option which can ensure better service delivery. Otherwise the whole concept of Pradhan in the project should be removed.

Last but not the least government should also conduct quarterly or biannually audit of the program so that prevalent wrong practices can be recognized and issues can be resolved. Lady Supervisors and CDPOs should be more supportive to AWWs for better service delivery than keeping themselves busy in ill practices. If these wrong practices are stopped then there will be a huge improvement inthe service delivery and nutrition indicators.

References

  • National Family and Health Survey – 4
  • National Family and Health Survey – 3
  • RajyaPoshan Mission
  • Uttar Pradesh ICDS
  • Unicef India
  • https://icdsupweb.org/hindi/

Email Id – vikas.singh7hk@gmail.com