Bombay HC raps govt for wasting funds, ignoring malnutrition deaths



Mumbai: Pulling up the Maharashtra Government for allegedly indulging in wasteful expenditure while ignoring the deaths of women and children due to malnutrition, the Bombay High Court on Monday asked the state to file an affidavit clarifying its stand on the issue.

The court was hearing a suo motu PIL on news reports highlighting deaths due to malnutrition even though crores of rupees have been allocated for the Women and Child Welfare Department.

"This money could have been useful to save lives. So many women and children have died," remarked Justice AM Khanwilkar of a division bench.

The bench directed the government to file affidavit and kept the PIL for hearing on March 13.

Advocate Gayatri Singh, who appeared as Amicus Curiae in the matter, said the Social Justice Department had incurred an expenditure of Rs 1.92 crore on carpets in 2010.

According to details submitted by Singh, in 2010, Rs 9.65 crore were spent on banners, Rs 2.88 crore on brochures and Rs 4.5 crore on booklets.

"The budgetary allocation is made for each year which lapses automatically if it is not utilised in that year. Therefore, officials try to utilise the amount allocated before the financial year ends," Singh alleged.

She told the court that the budgetary allocation for Women and Child Development Department for the year 2010 was Rs 2,400 crore and for the Integrated Child Development Scheme it was Rs 2,100 crore.

The suo motu petition alleged during the period prior to 2010, huge amount of funds had been sanctioned for purchases without verifying actual delivery.

According to the information provided by the government, 47,000 children suffered from malnutrition in Vidarbha region, while 450 children and 139 pregnant women died of malnutrition in 2010.

Besides this, 1,005 women have suffered miscarriages in the same year.

In January 2011, Rs seven crore was spent on vitamin syrup for tribal children. On March 31, 2011, the Social Justice Department sanctioned a sum of Rs 9.23 crore for supply of micro-nutrients to students of residential schools set up for the children of nomadic tribe.

These funds were released two days before the budgetary allocation was to lapse, the petition alleged.

The government also sanctioned Rs 15 crore for purchasing toys at anganwadis in the state and also Rs 55 crore for biscuits and chikkis and Rs 65 crore for audio-visual and printed material for educational purpose.

Anganwadi is a courtyard shelter set up by the government to provide basic healthcare to tribal children in villages.

Of the 4,776 anganwadis, 1,982 do not have concrete structures. Despite funds, 40 per cent of the anganwadis lack food, infrastructure and space. They don't even have basic amenities like mattresses and force children to sleep on the floor, the suo motu petition alleged.

PTI