The Supreme Court appointed special commissioners have sought a report from the Madhya Pradesh government on “an alarming spate of malnutrition deaths among children and infants in the state” and has also called for a social audit of various welfare schemes.
Expressing their “deep concern”, commissioners Dr NC Saxena and Harsh Mander have asked the state government to submit an action taken report (ATR) within a fortnight.
The Hindustan Times carried a series of reports on 125 malnourished children dying in the tribal belts of Khandwa, Satna, Sheopur and Shivpuri districts over the past five months.
“Why the food schemes have not been implemented as per the Supreme Court orders?” the commissioner asked in a notice served on Chief Secretary Rakesh Sahni on September 15. The state has also been asked to conduct a social audit of welfare schemes, including National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, fix responsibility and register FIR against those found guilty of corruption.
The special commissioners, who are monitoring implementation of the food and employment schemes on behalf of the SC, have cautioned the state government against carrying out “merely a technical investigation”.
It is significant because while admitting the deaths of 48 children in the tribal block of Khalwa in Khandwa district over the past two months, the local administration attributed the toll to “diseases, superstition and families carelessness towards their children”. Another malnutrition death was reported from Khandwa hospital—a one-year-old boy died on Monday night.
The commissioners have asked the state government to survey all affected villages to identify malnourished children and shift the severely malnourished ones for treatment to Nutrition Rehabilitation Centres. The notice carries 16 sets of instructions on issues of rural employment, food security and child nutrition and medicare.
Maharashtra govt in dock
The state government admitted in Bombay High Court on Thursday that 176 children had died in Dharni and Melghat in Amravati between April and July. Saying that children were becoming victims of government’s carelessness, Chief Justice Swatanter Kumar ordered officials to visit one of the areas and submit a report within six weeks. Dr Rajendra Burma and Dr Ravindra Kolhe of Amravati moved HC in 2007, seeking directions for the government to take necessary steps to reduce and prevent deaths due to malnutrition.
(With inputs from HTC Mumbai)