MUMBAI: The Bombay high court on Monday asked the Nandurbar district collector to remain present in court with a report after learning that 86 tribal children have died due to malnutrition since January.
"District collector to remain personally present on September 23," said Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Makarand Karnik. They were hearing a 2007 PIL on malnutrition-related deaths in the Melghat region of Amravati and other tribal areas.
The judges were miffed that the collector had not submitted his report despite its August 17 order when it was first informed about the situation in Nandurbar. They said he must appear with a report after coordinating with the director of health services. They also frowned on the state government for not taking steps to fill posts of doctors.
Melghat-based activist Bandya Sane told the court that since January, there have been 411 deaths in Nandurbar, including 86 children, and 100 deaths in Melghat, including stillbirths. Sane claimed there is a shortage of 44 specialists.
State advocate Neha Bhide said 151 qualified doctors, including 79 MBBS, have been appointed in Nandurbar. "And despite that so many deaths! 86 children died since January," said CJ Datta.
In a report, the state said advertisements for doctors, nurses were issued in February. The judges asked why the state does not follow the judicial process of appointments: the annual process ensures it is known who will retire, the vacancies created and advertisements are put out in time. "Otherwise these posts will never be filled," said the CJ.
When Bhide said "the toughest posts to fill are of medical officers", the judges asked how many doctors there are in the state. Bhide said she would get the data. Advocate Uday Warunjikar, for Kasturba Adivasi Mitra Mandal, replied though 1 lakh doctors are registered, a few thousands are with the government and few report to tribal areas. "Steps taken are lip service... Advertisements are issued as if it's the end of the matter. What is the follow-up? You must tell us, we want complete figures. We don't want half-baked reports," said the CJ.
Sane also told the court that the terrain in Nandurbar is tough, the roads are bad. Doctors are supposed to visit primary health centres, but as there are no vehicles, they are unable to go and so, tribals do not get medical facilities. He urged that vehicles must be provided.