Written bySiddhant Pandey ·
As the extreme heatwave in various parts of India is expected to persist with the delay in monsoon, a district collector in Umaria, Madhya Pradesh, donated his air conditioners to state-run shelters for malnourished children.
However, for the district collector, Swarochish Somavanshi (34), the problems he has to tackle run much deeper to be solved by simply donating ACs.
Last week, Somavanshi, a 2012 batch IAS officer, had ACs from his cabin and three from the collectorate halls removed to be installed in four Nutrition Rehabilitation Centers (NRCs). It took 22 hours and helped over a hundred kids, The Better India reported.
Somavanshi said arranging for new ACs would have taken longer, and immediate relief was required as many children had burn injuries.
Speaking to The Times of India, Somvanshi said, "The children are not only malnourished but most of them also have burn injuries from being branded with hot iron according to tribal superstitions. The risk of infection rises with temperature."
Somavanshi brings to light the superstitious tradition of Dagna- where children are branded with hot iron in a bid to treat ailments, in this case, malnutrition.
He told TBI that the parents justified the practice as they went through the same thing and it "worked on them."
So, how does Somavanshi challenge Dagna in a land where quacks are given preference over modern medicine?
Somavanshi launched Operation Sanjeevani in the first week of May this year to tackle the situation.
His three-tier approach includes filing FIRs against families practising Dagna, spreading awareness among villages, and rewarding ones that choose against iron branding their children to treat them.
"The third step will take time because it has been only a month since Sanjeevani has been implemented," he told TBI.
Through the initiative, Somavanshi has managed to reach out to 50,000 children in Umaria- which has 80% of rural and tribal population. 673 of those kids have dagna scars.
Villagers have already started checking kids into NRCs for treatment.
Before last week, the local Red Cross Society had Rs. 13,000 for funds- inadequate for installing ACs. Now, the funds amount to Rs. 5 lakh!
"After the ACs were shifted, many people donated to the Red Cross fund and in three days we collected Rs. 5 lakh. We have already made plans to revamp the NRCs," he told TOI. His staff also contributed a week's salary to donations, TBI reported.
According to TOI, in the past, Somavanshi and his wife, Shalini, helped coach many youngsters in Singrauli district to crack competitive examinations.
He also gathered a bunch of youngsters, called 'Yuwa,' to keep him informed about people's needs and government schemes.
As Seoni district panchayat CEO, Somavanshi also launched a portal and an app to rate government construction projects on quality, rather than quantity.
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