The Bombay high court on Friday asked the Maharashtra government for details of the steps it proposes to take to curb malnutrition-related deaths across the state.
The directions came as the court was hearing a bunch of public interest litigations (PILs) highlighting the increasing instances of malnutrition among children in the Melghat region of Vidarbha and other tribal areas in Maharashtra.
A bench of Justice VM Kanade and Justice Nutan Sardessai said that as the steps taken by the government so far proved to be inadequate, “NGOs and citizens must join hands to ensure that the tribals receive basic help.”
On October 26, the court had come down heavily on the state government for its “insensitivity” towards tribals and directed it to inform the court of what it planned to do to address the situation.
On Friday however, acting advocate general Rohit Deo sought additional time to file the affidavit, as the state’s senior officers were still preparing it. He added that in the meantime, all concerned departments had been directed to tackle the situation in Palghar.
The petitioners however, told the court that despite its promises, the state failed to get a single qualified MBBS doctor to work in Palghar this past year. They added that 519 children died of malnutrition, other illnesses, or at birth in areas such as Melghat and Jawhar in the district.
They said that “a few years ago, the government had got a couple — who were retired doctors — to work in Palghar. They were promised a salary of Rs1 lakh a month. However, when it was time to pay them, the government deducted pension and other benefits, to the effect that the couple received only Rs18,000 as their monthly salary. They thus, decided to quit.”
Deo said the government would look into this and make amends. He said the chief secretary was personally looking into the implementation of previous court orders.