Mumbai: The Bombay High Court has given an ultimatum to Maharashtra government to face contempt action or forthwith appoint an IAS officer to ensure implementation of welfare schemes for the benefit of malnourished tribal children in Dharni and Melghat regions of Amravati district.
Hearing a bunch of PILs expressing concern over the government`s apathy towards malnourishment of tribal children in the Melghat-Dharni belt, Justices DY Chandrachud and Amjad Sayed yesterday observed that despite their earlier order, the state had not appointed an IAS officer to monitor schemes.
The judges issued last warning to the state to appoint an officer or face contempt action. They said they were taking serious note of the "lackadaisical" approach of the government towards the issue of malnourishment of tribal children.
"Should we issue a contempt action to the Chief Secretary of the state? Why should he not face contempt? How can you keep the post vacant,” the judges asked.
The main purpose of appointing such an officer was to ensure that the tribal welfare schemes were implemented properly. Unless a competent officer was appointed the results achieved in the past would be nullified, the judges noted.
Accordingly, the bench directed Principal Secretaries of the Departments of Women and Child Welfare and Tribal Welfare to file an affidavit on March 08, detailing what steps had they taken to comply with the earlier High Court order.
Further, the Secretaries were directed to remain present in person if they failed to file affidavit, to explain what steps the state had taken to tackle malnutrition and prevent deaths because of it.
On February 06, the court had directed appointment of an IAS officer in Melghat tribal region to implement welfare projects, in keeping with a 1993 government circular which said such IAS officers should be appointed in 11 sensitive tribal areas of the state.
Government counsel Neha Bhide said she had informed the concerned officers about the High Court order but had not received any communication from them.
She further said that a Forest officer had been appointed recently but he was yet to take charge.
The PILs contended that due to malnourishment, the mortality rate in Dharni tribal area had gone up to 90 per 1,000 girls and 64 in Melghat region as against the average of 31 in the state.
One of the petitioners, Purnima Upadhyay, said Rs 110 crores had been provided by the government during 2012-2013 for tribal welfare schemes but no IAS officer had been appointed to ensure that these funds were utilised.