Unsani, Goalbati, Majherpara and Sultanpara are some pockets in Howrah where the Unicef- sponsored pulse polio programme of the government had not tasted much success till last week.
Reason: resistance from religious leaders due to superstition, a problem that is experienced in many other parts of the state. This has posed a serious threat to the government’s target of achieving 100 per cent immunisation against polio.
The scene in the above localities — all falling under ward 46 of the Howrah Municipal Corporation — however, was much different on Sunday, when health officials arrived for administering the pulse polio drops as part of the nationwide immunisation programme.
Parents who had never allowed the health officials to administer the drops at the earlier camps, arrived this time in large numbers with their children. This, thanks to the novel drive by a group of students and teachers of a girls’ college in Howrah.
In an attempt to motivate parents against superstition, students of Howrah’s Bijoy Krishna Girls’ College made a series of visits to the localities this month, held prolonged discussions with the local maulavis and parents and convinced them of the importance of vaccination.
“We were amazed to see the sudden spurt of enthusiasm among parents in bringing their wards to the camps for the pulse polio drops this time. Many parents who had never responded to government appeals were found showing a lot of interest in the immunisation programme. The credit definitely goes to the students of Bijoy Krishna Girls’ College. It is they who have successfully convinced them,” said Gopal Mukhopadhay, mayor, Howrah Municipal Corporation. According to him, even though the areas fall within the purview of the Howrah municipality, the bulk of the population there comes from backward families and is driven by superstition.
The brain behind the drive is Tapati Mukherjee, principal, Bijoy Krishna Girls’ College.
“Considering the consequences of the government failing to achieve the target of 100 per cent immunisation, I realised that the students’ and teachers’ communities have a key role to play in helping the government forward with the drive. I am happy that my colleagues and students have been successful in convincing the parents in favour of the immunisation programme,” said the principal.
According to her, keeping the April 6 camp target in mind, a group of students and teachers has visited the areas at least thrice since April 1.
However, principal Mukherjee said the drive undertaken by her college was planned on the lines of a recent directive of the University Grants Commission (UGC), which says that each of the UGC-registered colleges across the country will have to engage students in various kinds of social activities.
The UGC has already sent circulars to the colleges to start such activities from the current financial year, for which it will provide Rs 50,000 per college.