The Bombay High Court recently observed that “lack of specialist doctors and medical attendants to assist them is a major cause affecting the tribal women and children,” leading to their deaths due to malnutrition and lack of facilities.
Referring to the vacancy in nearly 62 per cent posts of civil doctors in the state, the court noted that the “presence of adequate number of paediatricians, nutritionists and gynaecologists may go a long way in securing timely medical assistance in the tribal areas.”
It directed that the Maharashtra Public Service Commission (MPSC) and the Director of Medical Education and Research (DMER) be made respondents in a PIL raising concerns over malnutrition among children in the Melghat region and sought from them the measures to be taken to fill up vacancies.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice M S Karnik on September 23 was hearing a bunch of pleas, including those filed by activists Dr Rajendra Burma and Bandu Sampatrao Sane.
As per earlier directions, Nandurbar District Collector Manisha Khatri was present before the court during the hearing and filed an affidavit over measures taken to curb deaths in the district since January this year. The HC earlier this month was informed by the petitioners that of the 411 deaths in the Nandurbar district since January, 86 children had died due to malnutrition.The bench further noted that per Health Services Commissionerate data on vacancy position as submitted by the petitioners, of 1,786 posts approved in the ‘Group A’ category of Maharashtra Medical and Health Services, 674 are filled up, whereas 1,112 posts are vacant, leading to nearly 62 % vacancy in the said category.
Moreover, the vacancy percentage for Group B posts is 74 %. The court noted that among a large number of posts approved in the ‘C’ and ‘D’ category, the percentage of vacancies is “unusually high.”
Among 31,585 ‘C’ category approved posts, 22, 234 positions are filled up, while 9,351 posts are still vacant. Of 25,302 approved posts of D’ category medical staff, 17,105 are vacant and 8,197 are filled up.
Petitioner Sane submitted that there are 11 sensitive tribal areas where the medical facilities are inadequate requiring immediate attention.The bench found it necessary to make MPSC and DMER party respondents to the case. The court asked Additional Government Pleader Neha Bhinde to take necessary instructions from DMER about the steps taken to fill up the vacancies and the reasons why so many posts are lying vacant.
The court posted the next hearing on October 13.