September 21, 2021 1:00:46 am
The Bombay High Court on Monday, while maintaining that deaths of children due to malnutrition in the Melghat region and other tribal areas in Maharashtra should stop, said that it would be monitoring the situation twice a month on a fortnightly basis so that effective and immediate measures are taken in the regard by the state government.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish S Kulkarni was hearing a bunch of PILs on malnutrition among children in the Melghat region, including those filed by Dr Rajendra Burma and activist Bandu Sampatrao Sane alleging that not much progress has been made to alleviate the suffering of the tribal people.
On Monday, Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni submitted that the state public health department has initiated a recruitment drive where 1500 doctors, including specialists, have been appointed across the state and some of them are for the tribal regions.
He listed various problems faced by authorities while addressing the issue of malnutrition deaths including “early marriages” in tribal people, “orthodox way of life,” such as not availing of medical help during the delivery of the child and preferring deliveries at the home, leading to low birth rate among others. He added that many tribal persons approach tantriks/mantriks to cure their ailments instead of visiting hospitals.
“We have a scheme to pay tantriks an incentive of Rs 200 for referring such cases directly to government hospitals or public health centres, and there has been some progress (in the regard),” Kumbhakoni added.
The petitioners, through senior counsel Jugal Kishore Gilda and advocate Uday Warunjikar, said that measures taken by the government despite various HC orders since 1993 were insufficient, adding that officials had shown apathy in implementing various schemes for the health and welfare of pregnant women and newborns.
After hearing the submissions, the bench said, “We would like you (state) to first focus on how deaths can be stopped. Once they stop, you need to bring them into the mainstream in regards to addressing their healthcare. They cannot be left to go to tantrik for ailments. Even in the Andaman Islands, people from the Jarawa community are now coming to hospitals and mixing with people…”
Adjourning the hearing, the bench said, “It will be gradual, but it has to be done. We have to save children. We are not disposing of this matter and would hear it twice a month, every fortnight. At least our efforts have to be there to protect the children.”
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