Coronavirus (COVID-19): The Jharkhand High Court has pulled up the state government over reports of people allegedly escaping containment zones in Ranchi and the matter of migrant labourers being transported to to other districts. The details of the hearing were made available on Sunday.
Till Sunday, Jharkhand recorded 38 COVID-19 cases in the state, including two deaths.
A bench of Chief Justice Ravi Ranjan and Justice Sujit Narayan Prasad was hearing a slew of Public Interest Litigations (PILs). During the hearing, the judges said they were “amazed” to know authorities had allowed labourers to be transported despite lockdown orders being in place and sought to know the action being taken against officials responsible.
Two instances were mentioned in the PILs.
The first instance pertains to an incident where five people locked down in the Hindpiri hotspot in Ranchi, travelled to Lohardaga. Within days, two local contractors from the area also participated in a meeting held in the office of the Ranchi Municipal Corporation.
The bench sought to know: “What action has been taken against erring officials as, even though there was sealing/containment of the area of the Hindpiri…What steps are being taken for sensitisation of non-compliant people residing within the contained/hotspots zones?”
The second instance refers to people being transported from Ranchi to other districts of the state in eight buses “without following proper protocol” and without a medical check on March 29.
“This court is amazed to note that though the lockdown was notified on 24.03.2020, how did the authority grant such permissions without following the proper protocol? This court requires a response from the Chief Secretary of the State of Jharkhand. It has come in the newspaper that a showcause notice was also issued to the Deputy Commissioner, Ranchi on this issue. If that is correct then the reply of the Deputy Commissioner, Ranchi is required to be brought on record,” the court said in its order.
The court has ordered the Chief Secretary to respond.
In its order, the court also sought to know whether the state government has set up a standard protocol to conduct tests and identify and quarantine suspected patients. “If yes, let that protocol be disclosed to this Court. Whether the state government has made appropriate provisions in that standard protocol to undertake antigen/antibody test as a preliminary test of suspected persons, including asymptomatic persons, so as to optimise benefits of scarce resources like testing kits,” the court asked.
With respect to the availability of the kits, the government responded that till April 15, it had a total of 7,577 kits against the requisition of 35,000 kits. The government added that it has requested the ICMR to provide over 10,000 more kits for community screening.
In the affidavit filed before the court, the government had earlier told the court that 1,02,526 people in the state have been home quarantined in 24 districts under surveillance of the respective Panchayat Sewaks, Jan Sewaks, ANMs and Anganwari Workers. The government said testing is being carried out at three labs: MGM Medical College, Jamshedpur, Ranchi Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) and PMCH, Dhanbad. The authorities are working to get approval from ICMR for making a fourth lab functional at Itki, Ranchi, the government said.
As per the court order, Rajiv Sinha, Assistant Solicitor General of India orally submitted that the medical equipment are being sent to the states on priority basis however, he added on the next date he will apprise the court about the steps taken by the Ministry of Health, Union of India pertaining to supply of the kits among others.
The court also asked if the state government had sufficient numbers of health workers and additionally asked how ti proposes to augment strength. It also asked what steps the government was taking to cater to the need of the other “terminally ill patients” suffering from chronic diseases.
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