Taking suo motu cognisance of the deaths due to malnutrition in Palghar, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued a notice to the Maharashtra government, giving the state a month to submit a detailed report on the deaths. “The commission has observed that the state authorities are required to be conscious about the plight of residents, especially children and elderly people. Such a huge number of children deaths in a year amount to violation of right to life and health,” the NHRC observed.
Several cases of malnutrition had also been reported among the tribal population in Jawahar and Mokhada — part of Palghar district — in the past. This year, however, cases of under-nourishment have also been recorded in the adjoining Vada and Vikramgad talukas as well.
The NHRC has now demanded a report on case detection, treatment and allocation of funds from the chief secretary of Maharashtra. “The area having tribal population are the most vulnerable because the tribals are already affected by poverty, illiteracy and lack of awareness towards government welfare and healthcare schemes,” the NHRC said.
A report by Integrated Child Development System (ICDS) shows that Palghar reported deaths of 63 children aged less than six years due to various health reasons in August alone. ICDS data till August shows that of 1.39 lakh children weighed for the survey, 5,899 are severely underweight and 29,599 are moderately underweight.
The worst-hit taluka in Palghar is Dahanu, where 1,674 children were found to be severely underweight. Jawahar taluka follows Dahanu with 1,506 such cases.
Vikramgad has 112 severely underweight kids, Talasari has 428, Wada has 965 and Palghar town has 761 severely underweight children. In total, Palghar has 2,213 anganwadis for 1.26 lakh children who are beneficiaries of nutritional programmes.
According to the NHRC report, at least 600 children have died due to malnutrition in Palghar this year. Recently, a tribal family who lost their two-year-old child to malnourishment in August confronted Tribal Welfare Minister Vishnu Savra during his visit to Palghar.
According to anganwadi workers, counselling over health issues poses a serious problem in tribal pockets where parents are not receptive towards issues of undernourishment of their children. Additionally, while take-home ration is available for children aged less than three, it is not utilised by children to full capacity, anganwadi workers said.