An ailing man who returned home in far western Nepal after falling ill in India's Pune city has been thrown out of his village due to mistaken fears that he had contracted swine flu and could infect others.
Thakur Prasad Chaudhari, who was working as a labourer in India's Maharasthra state, had returned home Saturday to his village Janakinagar in remote Kailali district.
Chaudhari, in his 20s, who belongs to the underprivileged Tharu community once treated as bonded slaves, had been diagnosed by a Pune hospital two weeks ago as suffering from anaemia and advised rest, a media report said.
But the people in his village, who had learnt through television about the outbreak of Influenza A (H1N1) in Pune, where the death toll has gone up to 25, refused to believe Chaudhary and accused him of having contracted swine flu, the Naya Patrika daily reported Wednesday.
"He showed them the doctor's prescriptions and even the medicines he was taking but no one paid any heed," Chaudhary's wife Sita told the daily.
After being persecuted by the villagers, Chaudhary has now been forced to take shelter in Nepalgunj town in Banke district, the daily added.
Not satisfied with throwing Chaudhary out, the villagers, wrongly fearing that his family could have been affected and could pass on the infection to others, are now ostracising his wife and children.
"They have stopped us from entering the village," the harassed wife said. "When people pass our house, they call out, this is the house of the family that has swine flu and cover their nose so that they don't breathe in any virus.
"We are not allowed to work in the village or even buy food or other essential stuff. How can poor people like us survive?"
Chaudhary's plight is similar to the ostracisation people faced when Nepal reported the first outbreak of AIDS.
Despite awareness campaigns by the government and NGOs, in remote villages especially, where literacy is low, people suffering from AIDS, tuberculosis and leprosy are still ostracised by their neighbours.
Health workers refuse to treat them while their children are refused admission in schools.
Kailali, located on the India-Nepal border, is one of the poorest districts in the country. Every day, hundreds of villagers cross the border to go to India in search of work.
The outbreak of swine flu in India, where 67 people have died so far and over 2,000 diagnosed with the disease, has triggered an exodus of panic-stricken Nepali workers who have been returning home in droves.
So far, Nepal has reported only 28 cases of swine flu and all the patients have recovered.