THE BOMBAY High Court on Tuesday observed that government officials have not been able to satisfactorily answer its queries in regard to malnutrition prevailing in Maharashtra’s tribal belts because no government has yet been formed in the state.
A division bench of Justice S C Dharmadhikari and Justice R I Chagla, while hearing a PIL on the issue, asked the state about the measures taken to curb malnutrition in the tribal belts of Melghat and Dharni, where the problem is acute. It added that while schemes like the Integrated Child Development Scheme were aimed at preventing child deaths due to malnutrition, it needed to know if proper measures had been taken up by the Centre and the state and what results had they yielded.
“The unfortunate situation is that the Centre’s affidavit has not been filed. The state has a caretaker arrangement and duly elected MLAs of the largest party and their alliance partner are yet to elect their government. (State) officials in the court could not satisfactorily answer the questions,” the court observed.
Justice Dharmadhikar also remarked that though it has been 11 days since the Assembly poll results were announced, the state is yet to have a government in place. The court said that it was unfortunate that it had been monitoring the case for over 13 years and yet the state was not able to demonstrate that it was anywhere near achieving its “zero death” target due to malnutrition.
While asking the Centre to file its affidavit in the case, it also expressed anxiety over the Centre and the state working in “complete coordination” to ensure that the funds allocated to curb malnutrition are utilised properly.
The court further said that the prevalence of malnutrition among infants has to be addressed while the mother is pregnant. It added that it was “unfortunate” that although malnourished, tribal women still bear children and hence, the problem needs to be tackled while the mother is pregnant so that the child does not consequently suffer.
Asking government officials to remain present at the next hearing on December 5, the court said that they should be ready with records of the data and facilities extended to the mothers of such children.