The Bombay High Court directed the Maharashtra government on Wednesday to submit a report on visits conducted by its public health and district level officers to the state’s tribal areas that are battling malnutrition.
A bench of justices A S Oka and M S Sonak directed the state’s counsel Neha Bhide to submit the report by next week.
The direction came after Bhide told the bench that the state had been organising health camps in the tribal-dominated Melghat area of Vidarbha region, Nandurbar district and others areas, to help the residents.
She said several officers from the public health department, the district collectors concerned and other local- level officers regularly visit these areas to take stock of the health facilities and other issues.
The court-appointed core committee then takes cognisance of their observations and extends necessary aid to these areas, Bhide said.
Her submissions, however, were opposed by the petitioners – some NGOs and activists working in the tribal areas.
They informed the bench that despite the state’s claims of extending timely aid to tribal areas, the residents there “continued to face poverty and government apathy”. They lacked access to proper food and basic health care facilities.
They also informed the bench that between October 1 and October 14 this year, 12 children in these tribal areas had died of malnutrition.
At this, the bench asked if the core committee followed a set mechanism to help it take decisions and extend aid to such areas.
“On what basis does the committee take action? Do your officers visiting the tribal areas submit any reports to the committee? We would like to see these reports,” it said.
The bench was hearing a bunch of Public Interest Litigations highlighting a rise in malnutrition-related deaths and illnesses among those living in Melghat region of Vidarbha and other tribal areas in Maharashtra.
Different benches of the Bombay High Court have passed several orders on the issue over the last two years, directing the state government to ensure that those living in tribal areas get adequate nutrition, health care, sanitation and education facilities.
During a hearing last week, the petitioners had told the bench that between January and September this year, 72 tribal children had died of malnutrition in the state.
The bench had at that time asked the state if it could come up with a system to ensure that doctors and health workers posted in the tribal areas conduct door-to-door visits to check whether any child in such homes was suffering from malnutrition or other ailments.