In an attempt to bridge the gap between the ground realities in tribal areas and implementation of action plans initiated by the state to eradicate malnutrition in these areas, the Bombay High Court Tuesday directed the principal secretaries of various departments, including tribal development, health, and women and child welfare, along with petitioners and various NGOs working in the tribal areas to be present before the court during the next hearing.
The court said it was high time the departments and petitioners came together to discuss the implementation of various schemes and policies and address the issue of non-coordination between departments, which had been an impediment in the past in addressing malnutrition deaths.
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A division bench headed by Justice V M Kanade was hearing a bunch of PILs with respect to malnutrition deaths in Melghat and other tribal areas. On Monday, the government had filed an affidavit in the HC, detailing the steps being taken and measures proposed to tackle such deaths. The petitioners made a submission on Monday pointing to lacunae in the action plans mentioned in the affidavit.
“Meetings of core committee are not regular and in these meetings, there are only discussions and no action; measures listed for short term and long term are ad hoc; there are discrepancies in the data provided by the state; thousands of children are still deprived of care and support; situation continues to be alarming and specific time-bound action is needed,” said the submission. One of the petitioners, Purnima Upadhyay, urged the court to direct the state to provide age-specific hot cooked food instead of dry ration, initiate urgent action with regards to non-compliance of bonds of doctors, revise the pay of counsellors and start an integrated tribal development policy in consultation with organisations working in the field.
Justice Kanade said, “Most of the apprehensions and fears by petitioners will disappear if action plans are properly implemented. Reason for non-implementation is lack of coordination between various departments. The ministry… should take personal interest in the matter. All the issues addressed can be solved when all the principal secretaries sit together in the next hearing.” The next hearing has been fixed for January 27.