Cured of COVID, shunned by her own community

Gond woman not allowed at work site over fear of virus transmission

June 24, 2020 11:43 pm | Updated June 25, 2020 07:58 am IST - ADILABAD

Marapa Papabai at her home in Pangdi village of Kumram Bheem Asifabad district.

Marapa Papabai at her home in Pangdi village of Kumram Bheem Asifabad district.

It has been over 45 days since Marapa Papabai returned home after being cured of COVID-19, but she is forced to live in isolation in her village, Pangdi, in the interior Sirpur (U) mandal of Kumram Bheem Asifabad district. The 48-year-old woman, perhaps the only one from the aboriginal tribes in the State to have been diagnosed with the virus, remains confined to her hut.

Ms. Papabai was found to be positive for the deadly viral infection on April 22 and was admitted to Gandhi Hospital, Hyderabad. She was discharged on May 7 after 15 days of treatment and even completed her 28-day home quarantine.

She has not crossed the boundary of her humble home since her return as no villager wants her in their midst. “No one visits her either,” said village sarpanch Athram Jalimsha.

Superstitions galore

The Gonds are a superstitious lot and are scared of diseases, the fear of the novel coronavirus spread being the latest worry for the 180 Adivasi families in Pangdi. It is customary for these ethnic people to shun a person with a disease which can cause danger to the lives of other villagers.

Three-member family

The poor Gond woman, who is abandoned by her husband, lives with her old mother who is visually challenged and her daughter who has completed her Intermediate education. Their only source of income is the ₹2,000 per month that Ms. Papabai receives as ‘Single Woman’ pension from the State government.

During the difficult months of April and May, they also received COVID-19 assistance of ₹1,500 from State government and ₹500 from the Central government besides the 12 kg rice for each individual. The special support has now been discontinued and the three women are faced with problems.

Ms. Papabai is a job card holder under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme but is unable to participate in the wage guarantee scheme owing to her peculiar predicament. “She is not being allowed to work alongside others who harbour the fear of getting infected,” the sarpanch said.

KB Asifabad District Medical and Health Officer, Kumra Balu, an Adivasi himself, talks of taking up an awareness programme in the village to bring relief to the hapless trio. “I will inform the Collector so that villagers understand the issue in proper perspective,” he assured.

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