The Bombay high court on Wednesday pulled up the Maharashtra government for its insensitivity towards those dying of malnutrition in the tribal areas across the state. It directed the state chief secretary to submit a report detailing the steps that the state proposes to take to curb malnutrition related deaths and to implement the court’s previous orders on the issue.
A bench led by Justice VM Kanade also cautioned the state government saying that in case the court found the reply to be unsatisfactory, it will be forced to “summon the secretaries of all the concerned departments to court,” and to issue “contempt notices against the state.”
Justice Kanade said that the state’s “deep slumber” at a time when children were dying of malnutrition just 100 kilometers away from Mumbai was “shocking.”
He said that while the petitions seeking directions to the government to control the situation had been filed almost eight years ago, the court had passed several orders but “unfortunately all directions had remained on paper.”
Justice Kanade further said that the affidavits filed by the government showed that the situation had been attended to only at a “superficial level.”
“We direct the chief secretary to personally look into the matter and go through the court’s order and explain to us what the state is going to do for implementation of orders and to provide wholesome and healthy food to tribal children, and also how will it monitor the progress made,” Justice Kanade said. “We hope that the state will wake up from its slumber and address the issue earnestly,” he said.
The bench was hearing a bunch of Public Interest Litigations highlighting increasing instances of malnutrition among children in Melghat region of Vidarbha and other tribal areas in Maharashtra.
The petitioners had earlier brought to the court’s notice that there had been 18,000 instances of child deaths, including cases of still births in the region between 2015 and 2016.
‘Government unwilling to tackle situation’
•On October 14 this year, the bench had passed a scathing order against the state government following the PIL and news reports of deaths of tribal children due to malnutrition in Palghar and other areas in the state
•HC had said at the time that the situation proved that its root cause was unwillingness on the part of the government to tackle the situation, despite adequate funds and several court orders
•HC has also asked the state to submit details of the action taken in cases of sexual assault or such crimes against tribal women living in ashramshalas across the state
•It has also asked the state to submit details of the number of cases in which it had challenged the acquittal of those accused of crimes against tribal women residents of ashramshalas