hot iron rod
A baby was branded with a hot iron rod to cure her of pneumonia. Representational ImageGetty Images

In a superstitious ritual a 40-day-old baby was burnt on the chest with hot iron rods by a 'healer' to cure her of pneumonia in the city of Ujjain in Central India. She was rushed to a local hospital in a critical condition with severe burn wounds on the chest.

"The girl has developed septicaemia (infection) and her condition is critical. But we are hopeful that she can be cured," said Dr AP Singh, the doctor treating the child at the Ratlam Children's Hospital.

The baby girl identified as Shivani Prajapati had been constantly suffering from breathing distress after she was born. She was treated at two different hospitals for pneumonia but was only partially cured as her breathing problem continued.

To get rid of the distress, the grandmother of the girl took the child to a 'healer' who claimed he could make her problem go away. He then burnt her chest with a scorching hot iron rod as part of his ritual to rid her of her distress. On finding out about the child's state the mother, Seema Prajapati rushed her to the hospital.

The doctors say these cases of superstition are not new but this time the age of the child has brought the case into focus. The hospital informed the local police who is on the hunt for the alleged 'healer'.

In December 2014, another child who was less than three months old was branded with a hot knife for over 40 times by a local healer in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. He had similarly claimed he could cure the baby of pneumonia. This kind of healing, commonly known as branding, is a traditional but superstitious practice in many Indian villages where the skin is burnt with a hot iron rod or other metallic objects to treat various medical conditions.