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Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Melghat malnutrition: HC pulls up Maharashtra govt for not relieving senior IPS officer to visit tribal areas

The HC sought further report from the state by November 29, enumerating action taken to address concerns of the tribal population.

Written by Omkar Gokhale | Mumbai |
October 27, 2021 10:12:18 am
bombay high court aryan khan drugsThe Bombay High Court

The Bombay High Court on Monday pulled up the Maharashtra government for giving additional charges to senior IPS officer Dr. Chhering Dorje, special Inspector General (Spl IG Nashik range), to study and report on the situation of deaths due to malnutrition in Melghat region. The court had earlier asked the state home department to allow him to visit the tribal area when the state officials will conduct its next fortnightly visit in the region.

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, which alleged that not much progress has been made to alleviate the suffering of the tribal people and that a sufficient number of special doctors including gynaecologists and paediatricians were not provided in said region.

On October 4, the court had asked the state government to allow Dorje to visit the area observing that the “government had not achieved much progress in reducing deaths of expecting mothers and newborn children”.

On Monday, the court was informed that the October 4 order was communicated to Dr. Dorje on October 13 by the Director, Health Services, Pune.

Additional Government Pleader Neha Bhide for the state submitted that upon receipt of the order, Dr. Dorje wrote to the Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni on October 18, regretting the inability to submit the requisite report, as called for by us, prior to November 29 on the grounds stated therein.

“Apart from additional charges of offices entrusted to him impeding his visit to the tribal areas, Dr. Dorje for reasons personal to him would be on leave from October 30 to November 14,” she added.

The bench noted in the order, “Having regard to the terms of the October 4 order, we would have expected the Home Minister to relieve Dr. Dorje of the additional charges which have been entrusted to him for the period between September 25 and October 24 in order to facilitate the preparation of the requisite report for being placed before us today. It is indeed unfortunate that not much importance has been bestowed to the October 4 order, resulting in Dr. Dorje not being able to visit the tribal areas and placing his report before us.”

“Be that as it may, we direct that the report of Dr. Dorje must be placed before us by the State on November 29, when we propose to consider this PIL petition once again,” it added,

The bench expressed displeasure over the lack of medical facilities for people in the tribal region and observed, “Several deaths of children have taken place between the period April 2021 and till date on account of Febrile Convulsion, Pneumonia as well as very low birth weight. These are prima facie indications that the children in the tribal areas may not have been appropriately attended to medically. In any event, we find that deputing doctors as well as providing for health and medicare facilities for the tribal population, as indicated in the action taken report, have occasioned only after orders have been passed on this PIL petition.”

Seeking proactive measures from the state government, the HC said, “We encourage the State to take steps on their own without leaving everything for the court to direct. After all, public health, as well as tribal development, are subjects in respect whereof the State has control and supervision must be exercised by it to reach out to the tribal population for their wellbeing.”

The HC sought further report from the state by November 29, enumerating action taken to address concerns of the tribal population. After petitioner Sane said that there is no radiologist in the Amravati/Melghat area, the Court asked the state to ‘address the concern forthwith.”

Sane added that 119 children, including stillborn babies, have died in the Nandurbar district. “Since such submission is sought to be supported by certain figures noted in a document of the Zilla Parishad, we direct the State to look into the situation in Nandurbar District and to indicate, in the report that is required to be filed on the adjourned date, the steps taken for catering to the needs of the tribal population in such area,” the Court noted.

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