MUMBAI: The Bombay High Court bench of Justices Ravindra Ghuge and Sanjay Mehare at the Aurangabad seat on Tuesday pulled up the Maharashtra government for being "insensitive" towards the health workers of municipal councils in the state. The bench has ordered the government to clarify if it would extend the benefits of the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Package to these health workers.
The judges were hearing a PIL filed by the Maharashtra State Municipal Council Employees (MSMCE) and Cadre Employees Union (CEU) seeking the benefits of the package.
The MSMCE and CEU sought directives to the state government to accord the benefit of the insurance scheme for health workers fighting COVID-19 to the workers and employees of Municipal Council in the state. The petitioners further sought directives to the authorities to provide all safety equipments, sanitizers, hand gloves, uniform, and all other safety equipments which are necessary of fighting COVID-19.
When the petition was first heard in April 2020, the state claimed to have been providing all safety equipments for the health workers.
During the course of the hearing since last year, the judges have been informed that the matter was first pending with the state Finance department and then from October last year the proposal to extend this scheme to these workers is pending before the chief minister.
The judges noted that the state has been failing to give a concrete response to this issue since then. It noted that every time the matter was heard, the state said it should be given the last chance to file its response, however, it failed to file one.
"In view of this, though we are normally not inclined to direct the presence of any officer in the court, the fact situation emerging from the various orders passed in earlier hearings, would indicate that the state government has virtually compelled us to pass an order that the decision should be taken by the government within 15 days," the bench said.
"At least on 05 occasions, 'last' chances were granted to the government in between October, 2020 till January, 2021 and even after a passage of six months post our order in January, 2021, we do not find that the state has shown any interest or sensitivity in taking the decision," the judges added.
The bench said if the state doesn't give a proper response then "the scheme would purely be a paper arrangement and would appear to be a mockery as the municipal council workers, who have risked their lives in performing duties as Covid warriors in the pandemic, would be left in the lurch."
The judges accordingly ordered the state to take its decision on August 5, "failing which, the chief secretary of the state, who is said to be in-charge of presentation of the file before the Cabinet for a decision in this case, shall remain personally present before this court on next date and explain the conduct of the state."
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