Coming down heavily on the Maharashtra government for its failure to curb incidents of malnutrition, the Bombay high court (HC) on Friday held such incidents were a result of “lack of initiative by bureaucrats and politicians”.
A bench of justice VM Kanade said the government, especially its public health department, “completely lacked sensitivity”. “Just as how the British bureaucrats neglected natives in India and instead used up the country’s resources for their own development, the current bureaucracy in the country neglects tribals and the underprivileged,” the bench said.
The bench said despite its own budgetary allocations and aid from the Centre, the government had failed to curb malnutrition deaths because there is an “unwillingness” on its part to tackle the situation.
The observations came while the bench was hearing a bunch of PILs 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 there had been 18,000 instances of child deaths, including cases of still births in the region between 2015 and 2016. “We keep passing orders and nothing seems to happen. It is public money, it is taxpayers’ money and it should be used for the purpose it is earmarked but this doesn’t seem to be happening. Every other day, there are reports of your ministers visiting the affected areas. However, unfortunately, those visits fail to translate into any effective steps and there are still reports of deaths in areas like Palghar,” said Justice Kanade.
Giving examples of social activists like Baba Amte and Dr Abhay Bang, the court said while those individuals had been able to make changes on ground level, the government had failed to achieve anything despite having funds at their disposal.
The bench also spoke about continuing instances of sexual assault of girls living in ashramshalas and sought information about the number of such cases, acquittal in such matters and inquiry against government officials in such matters.
The HC is likely to take up the matter for further hearing on October 26.