Human rights body notice for Meghalaya govt over deaths of 877 infants in 4 months
Seeking detailed reports of the death of 877 newborn infants and 61 pregnant women in the state, the Meghalaya Human Rights Commission (MHRC) on Tuesday issued notices to the health and family welfare and social welfare departments.
Hearing a petition filed by social activist Agnes Kharshiῖing, the MHRC directed the Commissioner and Secretary, health services, and additional chief secretary of the social welfare department to respond to the allegations made by the petitioner “…to submit a detailed report on the matter so as to reach the state commission within 30 days from the date of receipt of the notice for further necessary orders”.
The Commission also expressed concern over the matter which raises serious issues of violation of human rights as Article 21 of the Constitution mandates for the protection of life and personal liberty of every citizen. It also pointed out that the right to life and health is a fundamental right and it is the paramount duty of the state to protect and safeguard such rights of any individual.
In her petition, Kharshiῖing, also, the president of the Civil Society of Women’s Organization (CSWO) sought the intervention of the MHRC with regard to the death of 877 newly born infants and 61 pregnant women in the state during the months of April till July, this year due to diseases other than the coronavirus.
Elaborating on this, Kharshiῖing told HT over phone that the death of the 877 infants and 61 pregnant women as clarified by the Director of Health Services was due to lack of medical attention, pneumonia, and birth asphyxia and the death of most of the pregnant women happened since they were not admitted to the hospital or health care centre for institutional delivery.
She further stated that the state has 12 big hospitals including private ones, 30 Community Health Centres (CHCs), 110 Primary Health Centres (PHCs), and also government-run civil hospitals in each of the 11 district headquarters, and the state suffers from a paucity of ambulances with only 72 ambulances serving the entire state with one or two ambulances for PHCs and CHCs.
She alleged, “The right to health is integral to the right to life, and the government has a constitutional obligation to provide health facilities which in this case the fundamental rights under Article 21 is being violated,” she emphasised. “We need to ensure that such cases are minimised as much as possible. Right to life is applicable to all and newborn infants and pregnant women are no less. They need to be protected at all costs.”
Reacting to the notice of the Commission, the state health department has acknowledged receipt of the same. Secretary of the department MN Nampui told HT, “We have duly received it and taken note of the content of the notice. We have written to the health directorate asking for response to the same following which the government will table its report before the Commission. Rest assured an in depth study over the matter will be conducted by the government.”
Meanwhile, the Meghalaya State Commission for Women and the Meghalaya State Commission for Protection of Child Rights were also included as opposite party respondents in the case.