People of the Pardhi community in Barshi town of Maharashtra are not using masks and hand sanitisers or maintaining social distancing. There is widely prevalent belief that ‘Corona Devi’ will take care of them, saving them from the pandemic, and that any precaution therefore is redundant.

The Solapur administration, along with containing the spread of Covid-19, is busy trying to squash the ‘rumour’ of Corona Devi curing patients and protecting devotees from the virus.

For the last couple of months, Pardhi residents have been sacrificing goats and chicken to the ‘new’ goddesses they have established and christened. A woman claimed that the goddess came in her dream, saying she wants to stay in the locality.

The residents have created a small stone pedestal, with some stones placed on it. The devi is said to be seated there. This was the platform were sacrifice ceremonies were conducted.

People in the area also claim that none in the neighbourhood has been affected by Covid-19 and their relatives in cities are also safe because of the goddess’ blessings.

As the rumour of the birth of a new goddess started spreading across the city, there was much demand for a darshan and a chance to offer prayers.

Need to educate people

“As people from other areas started visiting the locality we went there with doctors and explained the gravity of the situation. The spread of education is low in the Pardhi community and hence rumours spread fast. We have filed cases against two people under the Disaster Management Act, IPC- 188 and Epidemic Act,” Barshi Police Inspector Santosh Girigosavi told BusinessLine . He added that police are making every effort to control the spread of the Corona Devi rumour.

Solapur district has reported 20,456 Covid-19 cases till date. There are 4,959 active patients while 791 have succumbed to the virus. The administration is worried that if ‘Corona Devi’ takes a religious turn it would be difficult to control the crowd visiting Pardhi.

“We got the information from the local media. This episode underlines the need to take people into confidence and explain the reality and gravity of the situation,” said Vinayak Mali, Secretary of the Maharashtra Blind Faith Eradication Committee (MBFEC) in Barshi.

Psychiatrist Hamid Dabholkar, who is also a member of the MBFEC, said, “Searching for divine solutions in times of pandemics is not new to the human race. In the times of Corona, we have witnessed many such unscientific claims made even by well-educated people .The incident in Barshi clearly indicates the huge need for inculcating scientific ways of thinking in society. We should take extra precautions before believing in any such unscientific claims around corona.”

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