‘Parents have to share the responsibility with women’s groups in fight against such practices’

Eknath Rathod and Suman of Nandi Bijalgaon tanda think their family is cursed. So do their neighbours. That is why the farm labour couple is forced to live outside the village with four children who suffer from genetic disorders resulting from consanguineous marriage.

The couple has three daughters and a son — Mangala (12), Sangeeta (10), Bajrangi (7) and Gauri (3). None of them can eat solid food and are fed milk instead. “We need six to eight litres of milk a day, which costs around Rs. 200. I can’t afford to buy milk every day,” said Mr. Rathod. “On such days, we have to make do with some rice flour mixed with water,” he said.

“Two of our children get a monthly social security pension of Rs. 400 each. We took our children to many doctors. But they said they can’t be cured. We stopped seeing doctors after that,” he said.

According to B.O. Hanumanthappa, director of the Bidar Institute of Medical Sciences, this is not an isolated case. “Marriage among relatives is common in this region. Children born out of consanguineous marriages have higher risk of having congenital problems. We need to create awareness against this practice,” he said.

Amarnath Solpure, who retired as dean of the Government Medical College in Latur, Maharashtra, said, “This practice is prevalent among landed communities as they want to retain the property within the family. The practice is so common that it has become a part of the culture. This is disturbing.” He observed that children born out of such marriages were more prone to infections and diseases, and lack of neonatal care and malnutrition deteriorates their health further.

“We need to realise that disability and underdevelopment are the price we pay for getting our children married to close relatives,” Lakshmi Kamathane, a member of the anganwadi workers’ association, said. She said parents had to share the responsibility with women’s groups in fight against such practices.

Ujjwal Kumar Ghosh, Bidar Zilla Panchayat Chief Executive Officer, said the Rathod family would be covered under social welfare schemes. “We are also planning a campaign to create awareness against consanguinity,” he said.

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