Debating India

ORISSA

A police initiative

Saturday 21 May 2005, by DAS*Prafulla

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ASHOKE CHAKRABARTY
Yeshwant Jethwa, Superintendent of Police, who has been campaigning against witch-hunting at weekly markets, at Bhalulata.

ON a sweltering Thursday afternoon, the weekly market at Bhalulata village in Sundargarh district’s Bisra block was buzzing with activity. Suddenly, an impromptu performance by a musical band of the district police stirred up interest. The band had started beating drums and blowing trumpets, and singing popular numbers. Soon it was joined by a couple of local singers.

Enchanted by the music, a few tribal people began to sway to the beats of the drum. As the crowd swelled, the district’s Superintendent of Police, Y.K. Jethwa, arrived at the venue. He is on a mission to educate the tribal people about superstitions and on how quacks make fools of them.

Jethwa explained the fallouts of witch-hunt killings in the district and called upon the people to keep away from quacks. "We are here to tell you how you are conned by the quacks. You should approach a doctor in the nearest health centre instead of consulting a quack in case of illness in your homes," Jethwa said.

Soon after Jethwa finished his 15-minute speech, a member of the Rourkela-based Orissa Rationalist Association demonstrated some tricks that quacks perform to win the confidence of the tribal people.

Jethwa launched the police campaign against superstition last year. He has organised several awareness camps, involving rationalists.

In addition to the awareness campaign at the weekly markets, Jethwa is planning to stage a street play. "The script for the play is ready and we are in the process of selecting a few police personnel who will act in it," he said.

The problem, he said, had many dimensions. "While making a concerted effort to improve the literacy rate, healthcare facilities and road connectivity in the remote areas, the authorities should ensure a coordinated approach on the part of the government departments and voluntary organisations to make the people aware of the evils of blind belief,’’ Jethwa said.

See online : Frontline

P.S.

Volume 22 - Issue 11, May 21 - Jun. 03, 2005

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