20 October, 2020

When Dreams Die Young

Nagada village in Odisha’s Jajpur is inhabited by 60 families of the primitive Juang tribe.

Photograph by Sandeep Sahu
When Dreams Die Young

She looks barely in her early 20s. But she has already been through hell. Jamini Pradhan has been a mother four times over, lost two of her ­children and finds it tough to feed the surviving two—two-year-old Ankita and three-month-old Sushanta. Sushmita was two when she died, and Banu lived just eight months. Asked how they died, Jamini mumbles “hadaphuti” (measles). Little does she know that in this age measles doesn’t kill, and that the real killer was malnutrition. Her two children were among 22 reported dead in July 2016 due to malnutrition in a span of a few weeks at Nagada in Odisha’s Jajpur district. Until then, the nondescript village on a hilltop inhabited by 60 families of the primitive Juang tribe had been off the radar.

One reason for poor maternal and child health in these parts is that Juang girls marry early—sometimes as early as 12—and Jamini is no exception. (The first wedding of a girl of legally permissible age in Nagada took place just the day before this reporter visited the village.)

Things have...



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