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Tribal hamlet where a 20-day old malnourished girl died in a bamboo basket gets anganwadi, school

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Sravani Sarkar

SHIVPURI: As we travelled to this typical tribal hamlet in Pohri block, about 40km from Shivpuri district headquarters, I started getting the goosebumps – something unusual for me. But the hamlet in Jakhnaud had eerie memories linked and the unseasonal rain that had hit the area in the morning did nothing to lift my somber mood.

This was the hamlet where I had found a shrunken motherless newborn girl – who lived in a bamboo basket for 20 days – and succumbed despite our best efforts in last days of August 2016.

So when I reached the hamlet, which looked almost exactly as it did over two years ago from the outside, I did not expect much, despite the assurances of the local activist Ajay Yadav – a Child Rights and You (CRY) fellow.

But when I saw the happy faces of villagers gathered at an anganwadi, I sensed the change.

During the course of past two years, the Saharia-dominated settlement – a part of bigger Jakhnaud village had gotten the second anganwadi and the second school and all the Saharia kids now were into pre-school or school activities. They got their nutritious diet and mid-day meals regularly, the local villagers told us.

The village has an old anganwadi and school, but it was situated far away from the Saharia settlement and these children never got benefitted from them.


And the biggest point of solace was the no maternal or child death had been recorded during the past two years, ever since we brought to light the heart wrenching story of the newborn girl in bamboo basked who could only survive for 20 days in August of 2016.

“All this happened after your visit and the story that appeared. We pushed for the facilities,” Bharatlal, a villager said. Ajay agreed and added that the NewsBits story pushed the local and state administration into flurry of action and by October 2017, the hamlet had separate primary school and anganwadi for Saharia kids. Also local Saharia women were appointed as anganwadi worker and assistant and culture of feeding local food to the kids was being followed.

“No mothers or children have died in the village since Jasoda and her unfortunate daughter in 2016,” Sushila Adiwasi, another villager told us.


Once in the hamlet, I could vividly recollect the shocking scenario I had come witnessed that fateful August 2016 day. I was on another story, when I was told about Jasoda and her 20-day-old baby that had been left unnamed as the family expected it to die after her mother passed away within days after childbirth.

Despite distinctly humid conditions, I had found the baby lying in the bamboo basket, totally covered with a blanket folded in layers and a totally unused milk bottle placed near her head. Her shriveled chest was heaving unusually and I and the social activist accompanying me could see the fatally bad shape the child was in.

READ20 days life in a bamboo basket: MP baby girl couldn’t survive the system

It was after lot of convincing of the family – inclusive of a TB-struck grandfather and sole breadwinner manual labourer grandmother (the father of the child migrated for work) – that we could get the baby to the Special Newborn Care Unit (SNCU) in Pohri. But the extremely malnourished girl could not survive even the night.

I, despite being journalist covering such issues for two decades, was left numbed and feeling helpless, but ended up doing what I could do best - write a story on the child. The story went places and hit the right one. Jakhnaud is today a changed village, at least for the Saharia kids.

Jaya Singh, associate general manager of CRY India, which is running a community-based malnutrition management programme in the block, told NewsBits – “In any situation, it is the community that can play the strongest role. We just need to give them the confidence, the capacity and the direction. Jakhnaud village has become an example of fact that issues could be resolved with community participation.”

Sravani Sarkar

Sravani Sarkar has been a journalist for three decades. In the past, she has worked with Lokmat Times, Indian Express, Hindustan Times & The Week