October 18, 2013

INDIA: No Babies Born Since Decades In This Village; No Medical Clinics Around, No Road To Reach A Hospital In Case Of Emergency

The Times of India
written by J. Arockiaraj
Saturday October 12, 2013

MADURAI - The custom in this village too is that the first delivery of a woman has to be at her parent's place and the second delivery at her in-law's place. But Meenakshipuram, a village in Sirumalai Hills, broke with custom a long time ago. For years, no babies have been delivered in this village. Pregnant women leave their hill home for the plains after the bangle ceremony in the seventh month of pregnancy and return only after the delivery.

This breakdown of custom is no act of rebellion. With no clinics around and, worse, no road to reach a hospital in the event of an emergency, villagers have been left with no choice but to leave their homes in the otherwise pretty and pleasant hill country for the heat and dust of the plains. Lakshmi, a 45-year-old resident, says she can't remember when a baby was born in Meenakshipuram last. Women are taken to downhill for delivery. "It is normal tradition for the first delivery to be at the parent's home and the second baby to be at the in-laws' house, but Meenakshipuram women have to go down for all deliveries," she says.

The primary health care centre at Katchaikatti near Vadipatti, a village at the foot of Sirumalai Hills, is where most villagers head in times of a health issue. Most of the villagers in Meenakshipuram migrated up the hill from villagers in the plains. So, most of them have relatives in the plains and the women go and reside in their houses. Or else, they rent a house in Vadipatti for a couple of months.

"We either stay in our relatives' house or take up a house on rent. We return to Meenakshipuram a month after delivery," says Murugeswari, another young mother in the village. While the daughter in-laws of the households naturally go to stay in their mother's house for delivery, the daughters of the village don't have the fortune of returning to their mother's home. "Our daughters don't come back here for the last month of pregnancy and we accommodate them downhill itself," says Sundarambal, an elderly woman.

In case of emergencies, the women are taken in mini-trucks kept to ferry agricultural produces to a nearby village, Sirumalai Pudur, from where they are transported to the PHC in an ambulance, villagers say. The health staff at Katchaikatti PHC also confirms that all the deliveries in Meenakshipuram are done in the PHC itself. "We monitor their pregnancy during our field trips. They are brought down for the last month and the baby is delivered in the PHC," a health staff adds.

A village health nurse from Vadipatti frequents the village every week to monitor the health of the villagers.

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