Mumbai: Bombay High Court frowns at 72 infant deaths

Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Friday expressed shock over the deaths of 72 infants due to malnutrition in Melghat – a tribal area in Amravati district. It also asked the government whether any high ranking bureaucrat has ever visited the tribal areas to understand the ground reality.

A division bench of Justices Abhay Oka and Mahesh Sonak, while expressing shock at the deaths of infants, asked the government to state if a mechanism can be put in place to ensure that health care officers provide door-to-door services. “The number of deaths are shocking, especially because a committee under the chief secretary is already constituted to provide better facilities in tribal areas,” the bench remarked.

The remark was made after an activist informed the judges, 72 infants died in Melghat in the last nine months. “We want to know if either the chief secretary or any other high ranking official has ever visited these areas. How do these officials get to know what is actually happening in these areas? Whether the medical officers are performing their duties,” Justice Oka said.

The bench was hearing a bunch of petitions highlighting the high infant mortality rate in the tribal areas, especially Melghat, due to malnutrition. The judges were informed, several benches of the HC have passed many orders asking the government to provide a nutritious diet  to the pregnant women and infants in the tribal communities.

During the course of hearing, the bench inquired from advocate Neha Bhide, representing the government, if there was any mechanism to provide health care facilities directly to the tribals. “Let us know if you can provide health care and medical facilities at their doorstep,” Justice Oka said. The bench has accordingly posted the matter for further hearing on October 16.

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