The Bombay High Court on Friday lauded the BMC for its helpline (`1916’) saying it has been more or less successful, and ordered the Maharashtra government to issue directives to all other corporations to float such a number.
A few petitions had alleged that the helpline number issued by the BMC was of no use as no proper information was being provided to citizens.
A bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Amjad Sayed, however, noted that the BMC receives at least 4,000 calls a day and "this an indicator of the load taken by the informers receiving the calls. Indeed, there could be scope for improvement and we do appreciate the stand of the BMC to include an additional dial-in option for dissemination of information helpful for non-COVID patients.”
The judges further said that the BMC helpline has been more or less successful, and other civic bodies could emulate it. " We, therefore, direct the state to see to it that the other civic bodies emulate BMC's helpline (1916) and make available real time information," the CJ ordered.
Need to have a Complaint Cell
The judges also opined that there must be a separate toll free number for citizens to lodge their grievances. "We are of the considered view that the BMC should, without any delay, explore ways and means to set up a grievance redressal cell before which complaints could be lodged online/offline. The cell must be instructed to act promptly as and when complaints deserving immediate intervention are received," the bench said.
Use private ambulances too
The bench also took note of the shortage of ambulances to ferry patients from their homes to hospitals or COVID centers. It further took into account the fact that the BMC has been using ambulances offered by NGOs as well as converting BEST buses into ambulances for transporting patients.
"The state and the BMC may consider requiring private ambulances to be made operational, provided of course requisite human resources are available to operate it. If indeed the platform of Uber can be utilized, that could take care of a part of the problem, i.e., of locating and requisitioning ambulances which are then not engaged," the judges ordered.
Non-COVID patients too have rights
While noting the plight of non-COVID patients, the bench said, "Non-COVID patients equally have the right to health and medicare as any other COVID-19 patient and, therefore, we direct the State and the BMC to take all such steps at its disposal to ensure that non-COVID patients do not suffer for want of adequate facilities. Any slip could be viewed seriously."
Take proper care of senior citizens
"The senior citizens and people with comorbidities must not be forgotten in the war against COVID; in fact, most of the COVID victims, as per the available data, are senior citizens and people with comorbidities. The need to cater to their interests cannot, therefore, be overemphasized," CJ Datta observed in his 96-page judgment.
The judges, however, found sufficient, the steps taken by the BMC to attend to senior citizens as well as people with comorbidities "We do hope and trust that such steps would be continued in the right earnest to ensure extension of all facilities to the most vulnerable class," CJ Datta said.