Updated: May 14, 2021 7:43:19 am
THE PATNA High Court on Wednesday asked the Bihar government to give an account of the Covid deaths in the villages during the second wave of the pandemic. It also asked the government to submit the status of about 40 lakh migrants who returned to the villages during the first wave.
The court also asked the state government to submit a detailed report on the bodies found floating in the Ganga in Buxar district earlier this week.
Hearing a PIL, a division bench of Chief Justice Sanjay Karol and Justice S Kumar asked the state government to furnish a detailed report on measures being taken by the government to tackle the Covid crisis, especially in the rural areas. It asked for district-wise report on the deaths.
“We reiterate the importance and significance of shifting the focus to rural areas so as to ensure that none is deprived of medical health infrastructure in connection with Covid-19…. According to us, creating health infrastructure dealing with the pandemic would also entail collecting and collating information in terms of the Registration Act, for this would indicate the area required immediate attention,” the bench said.
“It is common knowledge that in the rural areas, especially the illiterate, marginalised and deprived ones are neither aware nor do they have the will to furnish and complete the formalities. At the local level, relatives immediately perform the last rites as per the prevalent practices.”
“Any death taking place in the rural area is immediately made known to all by word of mouth,” the bench said. “It shall be the duty of the Mukhiya/ Up-Mukhiya/ Pramukh/ Up-Pramukh/ Adhayaksha/ Up-Adayaksha to ensure that all deaths taking place within their respective jurisdictions are immediately reported and certainly not later than 24 hours.”
“This alone would help the authorities ascertain exact information on the cause of death enabling them to take further action in controlling the pandemic,” it said, adding that the court won’t hesitate in issuing directions for removal of those public representatives who fail to discharge their statutory obligations.
Referring to a previous affidavit filed by the state, it said: “…the death rate in Bihar is 0.56%, i.e. the total number of deaths resulting from Covid-9 is 3,357, but there is no district-wise breakup. In this backdrop, we are of the view that the Chief Secretary, Government of Bihar shall file a fresh affidavit indicating district-wise breakup of the activities undertaken and the existence of the infrastructure in dealing with the second wave.”
Stressing on decentralising health infrastructure in rural areas to deal with the pandemic, it said 2011 census data clearly gave a perspective, “revealing that almost 90% of the population lives in the rural areas”.
“It is not that coronavirus affects only the urban population. It is also not that it does not affect rich or the poor living in the rural areas. Infrastructure right from testing up to isolation must exist in the rural areas, more so in view of anticipation of the third wave, as per the experts of the Government of
India, which is likely to come soon,” said the court.
Expressing concerns regarding migrants’ status, it said: “… during the first wave of the pandemic, more than 40 lakh residents returned home… How many of those who again left the state for earning their bread and butter have now returned during the second wave of the pandemic, more so in the rural areas, is not clear. Whether the virus has spread in such regions also resulting in deaths needs to be ascertained by the administration,” it said. The matter would be heard next on May 17.
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