Pune: Due to less emphasis of family planning methods, many women in Laxmi Nagar have their second child in less than a year after their first delivery. This has resulted in increase in reduced care for both the children and in turn less nutrition for the children and their mother.
Child counsellors in these areas have observed that many children suffer from Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) hampering their development from early age.
Mina Shinde from Laxmi Nagar recollects that her daughter Mayuri Tambe was married in 2006 at an age of 18 and had her first child in 2007.
“Due to some medical problem, the first daughter did not live beyond a year. My daughter was again six months pregnant when the first baby died in 2008,” said Mina.
Gap between two children
The vicious cycle of malnutrition continues when there isn’t a healthy gap between the two children. Laxmi Nagar is also home to smaller communities, one such community is Sikhalgar. There are around 52 families with an average of six people in every household. The major occupation is pig rearing and making knives and swords. Most of them are also employed as golf course caddy in the nearby golf course in Yerawada.
According to the tradition of this community, abortion is not allowed. On the condition of anonymity, a woman from the community said that she and her first child were severely malnourished when the baby was born. “However, now after good care, the baby is doing well. Even my haemoglobin count is good. It was six when I came to my mother’s house during the pregnancy.”
“At the time of delivery, the haemoglobin count was 12 as my mother fed me good food and gave me medicines,” she said. She was advised by the doctors to get her third child aborted as she was folic acid deficient and her child was not developing properly in her womb. “However, abortions are not allowed in our community. It is considered a stigma on a woman’s image,” she added.
Another community which lives in Laxmi Nagar is the Waghari community. There are 84 families - again, with an average of of six per family. They are traditionally locksmiths with women engaged in selling old clothes and utensils for money.
According to the traditions here, a woman who is seeking a divorce in this community, has to hand over her children to the father and his family. Many women face dire consequences for not doing so.
Rekha Waghari, who delivered a girl after 12 years of marriage, said that her husband is an alcoholic and does not take care of them.
“In our community, the bangles are a symbol of marriage. If I remove them and give them back to my husband, I will also have to give my daughter back to him which I refuse to do. Hence, I am struggling to fight against the age old custom prevailing in our community because I know they will not treat my daughter with affection,” said Rekha.
Speaking about child psychology and family care these children get, Suchitra Mahamane, a child counsellor working extensively with children in Laxmi Nagar, said many parents ignore their responsibility.
“Many children I come across, especially boys, have Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). They have attention span of not more than two seconds, which affects their studies. The child has low confidence and severe inferiority complex. They even have a low logical thinking capability,” said Mahamane.
Proper attention missing
She further mentioned that as there is less gap between two children’s age, parents do not give proper attention to any of them.
“In Waghari community, the women work as well and have more than three children at home - each kid just a year older than the other. In such a scenario, these children do not get proper care from their own mother or any other family member,” said Mahamane.