HC directs state to frame policy to fight malnutrion

The Bombay High Court has directed the Maharashtra government to formulate a short term and long term plans on a war footing to tackle malnutrition in the tribal belt of Melghat area of the state.

Updated: Sep 04, 2012, 14:47 PM IST

Mumbai: The Bombay High Court has directed the Maharashtra government to formulate a short term and long term plans on a war footing to tackle malnutrition in the tribal belt of Melghat area of the state.

Hearing a petition, Justices D Y Chandrachud and R D Dhanuka recently asked the state government to consider this aspect through Amravati Collector and devise a suitable plan, setting out targets to be achieved expeditiously.

At present, there is no public information available on the status of undernourished children and on infant and child mortality on any government website. Unless there is proper information and monitoring and tracking system is put in place, it is not possible for the government or civil society to have access to relevant information, the judges noted.

"We find considerable merit in the grievance which has been made in this regard. Since governance has to be now in accord with the RTI Act, we are of the view that steps should be taken by the state government under the auspices of Amravati collector to activate a system-based tracking of children and mothers in Melghat," the bench opined.

"We are of the view that a period of four weeks should be granted to the state government to take necessary steps. We direct that implementation shall commence with effect from September 17," the judges noted.

The petitioner, Purnima Upadhay, relying upon a survey of Health Department in June, said the number of children suffering from moderately acute malnutrition (MAM) and severely acute malnutrition (SAM) were 3,431 and 561 respectively, while children who were moderately under weight (MUW) and severely under weight (SUW) were 10,047 and 3,798, respectively.

She submitted that status of child mortality between April and June 2012 showed that there were 81 deaths (35 in Chikhaldara and 46 in Dharni), 42 stillbirths and four cases of maternal mortality. The figures of malnourished children seemed to remain at a constant number of 14,000 over the last two years and the number of SAM and MAM children does not show a remarkable decline.
The court further directed the state government and Amravati collector to take suitable steps within a week to make available vehicles for emergency flying squads to deal with medical emergencies in Melghat.

There are 22 emergency flying squads that cater to the remote villages of Melghat with a view to addressing health issues. At present, the flying squads do not have any vehicle as a result of which the villagers in remote areas of Melghat are placed at high risk, especially in a medical emergency.

The court was informed that tenders were invited from private bidders for supply of vehicles at a rate of Rs 14,000 per vehicle per month. No bids were available at that rate. A meeting was held in June 2012 of the Navsanjivani Yojna under the guidance of the Amravati Collector. At the meeting, a decision was taken to invite fresh tenders.

Assistant Government Pleader Neha Bhide informed the court that fresh tenders have now been invited and a period of ten days has been allowed for the submission of bids.

The judges, however, opined, that the tenders must be finalised at the earliest. But, the period taken for evaluating and finalising the tenders should not result in a situation where in the interregnum, vehicles are not available for dealing with medical emergencies of the villagers in the remote parts of Melghat.

The bench directed that the Amravati collector takes steps forthwith, within a week, pending the finalisation of the tenders, so that vehicles are made available in the meantime for each one of the emergency flying squads to deal with medical urgencies in Melghat.