A Hindu priest inaugurates a Chhattisgarh hospital

The chief minister was supposed to inaugurate the newly built medical college building in Jagdalpur but it was a priest who did the honours. He chanted over the equipment and held a havan in the operation theatre. The state has been in the news for women getting infected during vasectomy and eye surgeries leaving patients sight-impaired

Advocates of the brahmanical system who control the government machinery all over India have played a big part in promoting superstition. Their misguided deeds, advertently or inadvertently, stymie non-Hindu, folk beliefs and practices, ride roughshod over India’s secular Constitutional system and put lives at risk. One such deed, on 11 May 2018, involved a Hindu priest inaugurating the newly constructed hospital building of Maharani Medical College Hospital (MMCH) in Dimarpal, Jagdalpur, in the Bastar district of ​​Chhattisgarh. The 500-bed medical college, with a centralized operation theatre, was built at a cost of Rs 350 crore and was supposed to be formally inaugurated by Chief Minister Raman Singh on May 15 as part of his state-wide Vikas Yatra. After news broke of the priest conducting havans and “blessing” the equipment in the hospital, the CM’s plan to inaugurate the building has been indefinitely postponed.

Raman Singh, chief minister, Chhattisgarh

On May 11, dean of MMCH, Dr U.S. Paikra, along with doctors of the Operation Theatre department, invited the pandit to perform the havan and aarti of the equipment. They even released photos and videos of the event.

Responding to media reports and criticism, the MMCH doctors have been justifying their actions. “We did nothing wrong by performing the pooja-path-havan. Yes, we believe that medical science is free from superstition. These rituals were merely done as a part of our traditions and beliefs,” said one of the doctors, on the condition of anonymity. When asked if the dhoop-havan (burning of incense) in the operation theatre could lead to infection, the doctor refused to answer.

The priest performs a puja over the equipment in the newly built operation theatre in Maharani Medical College Hospital

It is pertinent to mention that this is the same Chhattisgarh, where many women were infected during vasectomy and poor people who had undergone eye surgeries to remove cataracts were left visually impaired due to non-sterile conditions in operation theatres. Recently, similar incidents were also reported from AIIMS Raipur.

Speaking on the issue, Arvind Netam, a prominent Adivasi social activist, said the government and its machinery have been promoting superstition not only in medical science but also other spheres. “The government is engaged in strengthening the varna and caste system. If at all, pooja-path was needed for the inauguration, then why wasn’t a mata priest or gaita/guniya invited to conduct the ceremony according to the Adivasi custom. After all, Chhattisgarh is an Adivasi-dominated state,” he said.

Lakhan Singh, the regional president of People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), sought to emphasize the difference between studying science and having a scientific mindset: “Nowadays, people are in the race to prove their loyalty to the government (be it state or central). In this pursuit, they are willing to embrace and speak up for the most abhorrent and unscientific superstitions. At a time when the prime minister, state ministers and bureaucrats are all promoting superstitions, what is so surprising about the action of these doctors?” He added that such events are against the very tenets of the medical profession and amount to cheating patients. Singh demanded action against such doctors.

Translated by Devina Auchoybur and copy-edited by Rohit James


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