Hoping that the “government wakes up from its slumber” and acts on court orders spanning eight years, the Bombay High Court directed the Maharashtra chief secretary Wednesday to personally look into the death of tribal children due to malnutrition and lack of government facilities available to them.
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Stating that the situation has not changed since Independence, the court asked the chief secretary to file a reply. If not satisfied, it added, the court would be constrained to issue a contempt notice and direct secretaries of various departments to remain present in court. “It is unfortunate that only if such orders are passed does the state machinery wake up and tries to make amends. But the situation come back to normal when contempt notice is discharged. We hope the government will take a serious note of the matter,” said Justice V M Kanade.
The court added, “We direct chief secretary to personally look into the matter by going through all previous orders and explain what state is going to do to ensure implementation of orders. The chief secretary should also look at providing wholesome and healthy food to tribal children and ashramshalas besides specifying how the government will monitor the situation over the year.” The court said it did not like calling officers to court but was left with very little choice in such matters.
Pointing out how orders passed and directions given to the state authority after petitions were filed in 2008 still remained on paper, the court said affidavits filed by the government appeared to address issues on a superficial level even as the core issue remained unresolved.
Referring to previous court orders, Justice Kanade said they showed “pathetic” state of affairs in the administration of ashramshalas housing tribal children. “The state schemes on paper are laudable but in practice there is nothing. Suffice to say each order depicts a sad story and the pathetic situation of these children in ashramshalas,” said the court.
The bench said the state government and its officials had refused to wake up to the situation and were insensitive towards children and tribals belonging to the lowest rung of society.
“There are several provisions which protects and ensure welfare for tribals. A scheme called tribal welfare scheme had to be announced to bridge the gap between state action and actual implementation of various schemes of the state government. We hope the government wakes up from its slumber. Even after 70 years of Independence, children die of malnutrition more than 100 kms from Mumbai. An estimated 18,000 children have died due to this in Maharashtra in the last year,” observed the High Court.
The bench has asked that doctors be given special allowance as an incentive to go to such areas.
With instance of officers accused of siphoning of funds meant for tribals being brought to the notice of the court, it said such an act was shameful.