As many as 23 children, including a seven-month kid, in Bhim Sahi of Papadahandi block headquarters of Nabarangpur were branded with hot sticks by their parents.

Most of the children were aged between seven months and 10 years. Of them 14 children belong to a single family.

Most of the parents who took part in this inhuman practice were illiterates and belong to Khadra community who have settled here after migrating from Chhattisgarh four to five decades ago.

Near about 35 families of the community now reside at Papadahandi and they are mainly in trading household utensils.

The superstitious belief is that if children are branded with burning sticks of a particular tree species, they will remain free from ailments.

Kadand Sahu, an elderly member of the community said, “I have 14 grandchildren who were branded with a hot Jujub stick. We believe that if the children are branded on Chitau Amavasya their digestive capacity will improve and it will prevent stomach ailments in future.”

He further said on the day a variety of leaves are also affixed to the doors of their houses during the night to ward off the evil spells.

Anganwadi worker Chandrama Moharana and ASHA Hemlata Majhi immediately rushed to the houses and noted down the names of branded children.

They have termed the incident as unfortunate. They said that despite their efforts and awareness programmes people continue to follow to their age-old irrational beliefs.

District collector Ajit Kumar Mishra directed Medical officer of Papahandi, CHC Dr Susrita Sethi, to conduct an inquiry and submit a report.

The doctors who visited the place said the children were all stable.