The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Divorce for polio drops
- Man pronounces talaaq after wife gets son vaccinated

Calcutta, June 13: Talaaq, talaaq, talaaq.

That was the husband’s verdict after he learnt that his wife had taken their six-month-old son to a health camp to get him administered the polio vaccine.

The state has faced flak from several quarters for its dismal record in pulse polio campaigns and a tale like 24-year-old Jahanara Bibi’s is likely to deal another blow to the drive to eradicate the crippling disease.

Sheikh Nazrul of Rabindranagar in Patharpratima block of South 24-Parganas did not approve of his wife’s decision to allow health workers administer the oral polio vaccine to the baby. Hence the divorce.

Jahanara was with her parents at Dakshin Gangadharpur in the same block when her son was fed the vaccine on June 1 by a team of health workers led by the block development officer.

Two days later, Nazrul went there to bring his wife and child home. When told that his son was fed the vaccine, an enraged Nazrul spelt out talaaq to his wife in front of his in-laws.

Aghast at his son-in-law’s reaction, Abdul Majid Mir took up the matter with the chief medical officer of health and the district magistrate.

In his letter, Mir wanted to know what would be the fate of his daughter and grandson.

“I have received the complaint. The incident is peculiar and extremely unfortunate and I was shocked to know about it,” said Pradip Mondal, the chief medical officer of South 24-Parganas.

Mondal has asked block medical officer of health Kaliprasad Mukherjee to look into the matter. “We are expecting the report soon and then we can work on what needs to be done,” he said.

“As 12 polio cases were detected in our district — a very high percentage — we involved political parties, panchayats and NGOs in the pulse polio programme between June 1 and 3. Our aim was to administer the vaccine to all the children in the district,” Mondal said.

Officials said the administration had to deal with reluctant parents in several areas. “Illiteracy and religious beliefs are major reasons for such rejections,” said an official. “The talaaq proves we have miles to go. Lots of awareness campaigns are still required to remove apprehensions from people’s minds.”

With the monsoon approaching, the health officials wanted to ensure they covered the entire district during the June drive.

District magistrate Alapan Bandopadhyay said he was waiting for the case to “come” to him but, generally, officials were not sure what action could be taken.

Political parties are reluctant to interfere in this “sensitive issue”. “We do not want to intervene,” a local CPM leader said on condition of anonymity.

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