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Now, ritual transcends religions

A.V.Ragunathan

375 women take part in mass ‘valaikappu’ in Cuddalore

CUDDALORE: The mass ‘valaikappu’ ritual, being organised by the Health Department, has acquired a democratic characteristic. It now encompasses all expectant mothers, regardless of caste, creed, community or economic status, who opt for medical attention at the Primary Health Centres.

In one such event held at the Vadalur PHC near here on Sunday, women belonging to several religions participated. M. Rizwana of Pudunagar attended the function in a ‘burkha’ and was totally at ease. So was K. Benzia of Union Colony. It was a joyous occasion for 375 pregnant women who took part in the ritual.

They were also happy that the event, usually confined to four walls, was conducted in public glare. Each of them was given a pair of bangles, a garland, along with a kit containing a sari, a blouse, a sweet packet, and fruits, all worth Rs 350.

Health Minister M.R.K. Panneerselvam said the ceremony was unprecedented in the country. Modern amenities provided at the PHCs had brought down the maternal mortality rate (MMR) and the child mortality rate (CMR) in Tamil Nadu below the national average.

The national MMR rate was 301 for every one lakh deliveries and CMR was 57 for every 1,000 births. The corresponding figures for Tamil Nadu were 90 and 21. So far the government had given financial assistance to the tune of Rs. 400 crore to 6,16,943 pregnant women.

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