Orissa High Court. Telegraph picture
Cuttack, March 6: Orissa High Court has issued notices to both the Centre and the state government on a petition seeking probe to assess implementation of the National Rural Health Mission schemes in Kandhamal and Balangir districts to provide minimum level of health care facilities.
The PIL alleged failure in implementation of the health schemes aimed to reduce high number of maternal and child deaths due to the abysmal state of health care facilities and services in the two districts. Balangir-based social activist Shankar Prasad Panigrahi filed the PIL.
The division bench of acting Chief Justice Pradip Mohanty and Justice Biswajit Mohanty on Wednesday posted the matter to March 18 for hearing, along with responses from the Centre and the state government.
"The court accordingly issued notices returnable within one week to the Union secretaries of the ministry of women and child development as well as health and family welfare, state chief secretary, state secretaries of the women and child development as well as health and family welfare," said petitioner counsel Saroj Kumar Padhy.
"The court also issued notices seeking response within one from the chief district medical officers of Kandhamal and Balangir," Padhy said.
The petitioner had expressed concern that "Odisha continues to have the highest maternal mortality rate of 237 per one lakh live births against national average of 178 deaths per one lakh live births".
"The state is responsible for the disproportionate share of maternal and child deaths and its progress in reducing it has also been slower than the national average," the petition alleged, while seeking court intervention for ensuring minimum level of health care facilities and services under the NRHM schemes for pregnant women and infants.
According to the petition, there has been a "systematic failure in implementation of the NRHM schemes in Balangir and Kandhamal districts".
Poor pregnant women in the two districts do not have access to basic and life-saving reproductive and child health care. The women in these two regions remain deprived of suitable medical care and cash benefits under the NRHM schemes.
The women fortunate enough to reach the health care facilities and service facilities "encounter filthy hospitals lacking adequate facilities and basic services such as blood and medicines...All these denials culminate in loss of their lives", the petition alleged.
The petitioner has made the allegations on the basis of fact-finding investigations by a team of civil society activists between October 2013 and November 2014 in Kandhamal and Balangir districts after a spate of infant and maternal deaths.
The petition further alleged that only 88 doctors were available in Kandhamal district against a sanctioned 146 posts in addition to vacancies in posts of nurses, laboratory technicians and paramedical staff members.