The Bombay high court on Wednesday pulled up the state government for not treating the death of malnourished tribal children in Melghat region of Amravati district with adequate urgency.
“We are compelled to take serious note of the lackadaisical approach of the state government towards appointment of an IAS officer as project officer at Dharni,” said the division bench of justice DY Chandrachud and justice Amjad Sayed. The project officer is responsible for the implementation of various welfare schemes.
The bench stopped short of issuing contempt of court notices to the principal secretaries of the tribal development department, general administration department (GAD) and women and child development department, and instead granted them time till March 8 to appoint a project officer.
The judges were irked to note that in spite of specific orders, no project officer had been appointed and there was no response to requests made by assistant government pleader Neha Bhide for information sought by them.
Bhide pointed out that the GAD had appointed CM Dharankar as project officer for Dharni on January 23, 2013, but he had not yet joined the new posting, even though the area needs one because the lack of adequate public health services is a major factor contributing to the rampant malnourishment in the region.
The court was hearing several public interest litigations expressing concern over extent of malnourishment in the Melghat and Dharni tribal belts in Amravati.
Owing to the malnourishment, the mortality rate in Dharni area has gone up to 90 per 1000 births and is 64 in Melghat region as against the average of 31 in the state.
One of the petitioners, activist Purnima Upadhyay, pointed out that funds to the tune of Rs110 crore are at the disposal of the project officer, but most of these lapse because the officer is not present.
* The judges said this nullifies progress made in recent past and also derails the implementation of various welfare schemes.