The Bombay High Court on Monday warned the Maharashtra government of stern action if there are any more deaths of children due to malnutrition in the state's tribal belt.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice G S Kulkarni was hearing a public interest litigation filed in 2007, highlighting the high number of deaths of children, pregnant women and lactating mothers in the state's Melghat region because of malnutrition.
The plea also raised concerns over the lack of gynaecologists, paediatricians and radiologists in the public health centres of the region.
The petitioner informed the HC bench on Monday that in the last one year, 73 children died in the region due to malnutrition.
Advocate Neha Bhide, appearing for the Maharashtra government, told the court that all steps were being taken to address the issue.
To this, the court said, “If your (government) machinery is so well equipped, then why have there been 73 incidents of children deaths due to malnutrition.”
Noting that this was a serious matter, the bench directed the state government to submit details of how many children have died due to malnutrition in the tribal belt of the state from April 2020 to July 2021, and details about doctors sent to the public health centres in those areas.
“If on the next date of hearing we are informed that there have been more deaths of children due to malnutrition, then we will hold the principal secretary of the state public health department responsible. The public health department secretary has to rise to the occasion,” the court said.
“We are putting the public health department principal secretary on guard. If by September 6 (next date of hearing), we hear that there have been any more deaths then we will take a very stern view and action,” the court added.
The court also directed the Union government to file an affidavit, stating how much funds have been sanctioned to the state government to address the issue of malnutrition and how the Centre was monitoring the situation.
The court will hear the matter further on September 6.