Pointing to the lack of initiative by bureaucrats in curbing deaths of children due to malnutrition in the state and stating that such incidents continued to take place despite visits by politicians in such areas, the Bombay High Court Friday said this showed unwillingness on part of the government to tackle the situation, despite funds and several court orders.
While hearing a bunch of PILs regarding malnutrition among children in the Melghat region of Vidarbha and other tribal areas, the High Court said, “We keep on passing orders but nothing seems to happen. It is public money, it is tax-payers’ money, it should be used for the purpose it is earmarked. But this doesn’t seem to be happening .”
The petitioners had earlier brought to the court’s notice that there had been 18,000 child deaths, which included stillbirths, in 2015-16.
Pointing out how visits by ministers had also failed to improve the situation in such areas, the court said, “There have been visits by ministers, but no work seems to have been done in such areas.”The High Court also said that the approach of the British towards tribals, who did not care for their development, continued among bureaucrats even today. “The British neglected tribals and the bureaucrats of today continue to do the same,” said Justice Kanade.
The court pointed out that children were dying of malnutrition in areas such as Palghar, which are located near Mumbai, despite availability of funds.
“This shows the insensitive approach of the public health department. It seems that they are unwilling to tackle the issue,” said Justice V M Kanade, giving the government the last chance to file an affidavit specifying budgetary allocations and expenditure on child health and on tackling malnutrition.
Government pleader Neha Bhide said that food was being provided to children and there had been a decline in the number of deaths in the age group of 0 to 6 years.
Giving examples of social activists such as Baba Amte and Dr Abhay Bang, the court said that while they had been able to make changes on the ground level, the government had failed to achieve anything despite having funds at its disposal.
“There has been no improvement but the government claims that the number of deaths is decreasing,” said Justice Kanade.
He also pointed to the continued sexual assault of girls living in Ashramshalas and sought information about the number of such cases, acquittals and enquiry against government officials in such matters. Justice Kanade said” “When the sky is falling down, how many times will you hold it up?”
The matter has been kept for hearing on October 26.