The Bombay high court on Friday asked the Maharashtra government if any official of a committee constituted to provide health care in tribal areas ever visited places to check if any child was suffering from malnutrition or any other ailment.
A bench of Justices A S Oka and M S Sonak also asked the state whether it could come up with a system to ensure doctors and health care workers posted in tribal areas, such as Melghat and Nandurbar, conduct door-to-door visits.
The bench issued the directives while hearing a bunch of public interest litigations(PILs) highlighting rise in malnutrition deaths and illnesses among those living in Melghat region of Vidarbha and other tribal areas in Maharashtra.
Different benches of the high court have passed several orders on the issue over the last two years, directing the state government to ensure that those living in the tribal areas in the state get adequate nutrition, health care, sanitation and education facilities.
During the hearing on Thursday, the petitioners, some activists and NGOs working in the tribal areas informed the court that in the past nine months, 72 tribal children in the state had died of malnutrition.
The petitioners also pointed out that there was little change on the ground despite the court appointing a core committee led by the state chief secretary. The committee is tasked with conducting regular assessment of the situation in the areas and holding regular meetings to address all problems related to malnutrition and health care in tribal areas
The bench asked, “Has the chief secretary, or any of the other high ranking officials on the committee ever actually visited these areas? What is the mechanism on which this committee works?”.
“How does it get to know what is happening in the tribal areas, whether the health care staff are performing their duties,” it asked.
The court directed the state to respond to its queries by October 16, the next date of hearing in the case.