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Taking a strong stance against the branding of women as witches and to protect them from being abused and killed, the Hemant Soren-led Jharkhand government will soon launch a project in the state.
According to The New Indian Express, the state government aims to provide financial and legal assistance to such women who have faced harassment due to superstition. Under the scheme, all the women who faced torture in the name of witchcraft would be identified and assisted by officials to make them financially independent and help them lead a dignified life.
The scheme, in its initial phases, is being launched in 2,688 villages on a pilot basis and would be gradually extended to all 32,000 villages across the state. Reports have stated that till date, a total of 1,149 such women have been identified for the aid. Additionally, officials in the rural development department have said that a security team would also be constituted in each village to ensure that women are not tortured in the name of witchcraft.
"Being a very sensitive issue, awareness among the society is one of the major focuses of this programme, along with counselling and ensuring a dignified living to the affected women, economically as well as socially," said Rural Development Secretary Aradhana Patnaik.
Jharkhand has been on top of the list when it comes to the number of women killed for practising alleged witchcraft for four consecutive years between 2013 and 2016, in India, as per the data available with the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). This is the practice of first branding women as "witches" and then punishing them.
In 2019, the state reported 27 deaths related to allegations of witchcraft, according to the data provided by the state police, a rise from 18 similar deaths in 2018. Poor healthcare, low literacy rate and deep-rooted beliefs have been reportedly cited as the reasons for the state to report a high number of witch-hunt deaths.
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