The Maharashtra government has shown a lack of seriousness in filling key vacancies despite a government resolution (GR) of 2002, which makes special provisions for expeditious and timely deployment of staff in tribal habitations and Naxal-dominated areas.
This and other issues were highlighted in the ongoing case in the Bombay High Court on malnutrition in the Melghat region in Amravati district. In the last hearing on September 13, the court was informed that the GR dated August 6, 2002, also provided that posts should not be kept vacant in such areas.
However, in June, 2012, the tehsildars at Chikhaldhara and Dharni — the two talukas comprising the Melghat region — were transferred and the two replacements were on the verge of retirement. This was a very unsatisfactory state of affairs since posts under National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) required dedicated officers with sufficient time at their command in service to implement the policy, Justice Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice A.A. Sayed noted.
The Division Bench directed the State government to remedy the anomaly and take steps to bring in appropriate staff for the post of tehsildar at Chikhaldhara and Dharni. Similarly, of the two Block Development Officer posts, only one has been filled up. The Taluka Medical Officer, Dharni, was shifted but no replacement has been provided. The court directed that these vacancies be filled up quickly. Purnima Upadhaya, the petitioner, said the court also ruled that all vacancies in tribal districts needed to be filled up across the State.
The court had to direct the government to provide a vehicle soon to the Child Development Project Officer (CDPO) at Chikhaldhara who covers nearly 190 villages. It was found that the CDPO is not provided with a vehicle by the authorities. It would be impossible for the CDPO to attend to his or her duties, covering the vast area of 190 villages in Melghat, the court noted.
The court’s direction to the effect that vacancies should be filled up in conformity with the GR of 2002 and the fact that posts should not be kept vacant shall apply across the board in respect of all posts in the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) in all departments.
Most importantly, the court was informed that at present a mother and child tracking system of the health department was in existence. However, the platform did not provide details on the nutritional status of children in severely acute malnutrition (SAM) and moderately acute malnutrition (MAM) categories. The Maharashtra government, as a part of the ICDS Project, is developing a GIS-based ICDS software.
Unfortunately, none of these details is in the public domain. “We are of the view that the software should be fine-tuned at the earliest and information placed in the public domain so that it can be accessed,” the court ruled, setting the date December 31, 2012, to achieve this goal. By that date, the upgraded mother and child tracking system should be placed in the public domain together with all details of SAM and MAM children.
The court also directed that by the next date of hearing on November 2, the entire list of SAM and MAM children, with mortality figures, should be uploaded on the district website together with the identity of the children. The Chief Secretary has been requested to monitor compliance, including the filling up of vacant posts as mandated by the GR of August 6, 2002.