Recommends several measures to reduce high rate of maternal mortality

The Madhya Pradesh High Court has directed the State Government to ensure maternal safety through proper implementation of the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM).

The HC order was passed last Saturday by a bench comprising Justices Sanjay Yadav and Ajit Singh in the “Sandesh Bansal vs Union of India and others” public interest litigation.

The PIL, alleging failure of the State in ensuring basic and adequate maternal health and safety, was filed by the Madhya Pradesh Jan Adhikar Manch as part of their “save our mothers” campaign.

In its order, the HC found the implementation of the NRHM in the State wanting, thereby resulting in a high incidence of maternal mortality.

The bench has recommended several measures to improve the maternal health situation in the State – including ensuring round the clock availability of a trained ASHA or community health worker, strengthening out-patient services and appointment of Ayush doctors, uninterrupted power and water supply to PHCs and CHCs, ensuring round the clock institutional delivery facilities and the Janani Suraksha Vahan/mobile van at all 227 CHCs in the State and putting in place monitoring mechanisms at district and block levels to document all cases among others.

While the State's Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR), according to Sample Registration Data 2011, has come down to 269 from 335 (per 1,00,000 live births), maternal health and safety has been a consistent cause of concern.

On 27th January, the Indore bench of the Madhya Pradesh HC also passed an order in another important PIL related to maternal deaths filed by the Barwani-based Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan (JADS).

Through the order, the HC directed the government to comply with directions issued by it in its interim order of November 2011 and submit a compliance report before the next hearing of the PIL on March 30.

The PIL was filed by Duna Bai, sister of Vyapari Bai, a young tribal woman from Barwani whose story (November 2010) has come to reflect the State of maternal health and medical access in rural Madhya Pradesh, especially tribal areas.

In her hour of need for a safe institutional delivery, Vyapari Bai was referred from the Primary Health Centre to the Community Health Centre, the District hospital and then to Indore by the Barwani district hospital authorities. She couldn't survive the 27-hour long ordeal and died along with her unborn baby.

The tribal-dominated Barwani district witnessed over 25 maternal deaths in the latter half of 2010, leading to several protests by adivasis in the region.