Expressing serious concerns about the deplorable public health infrastructure in the country, the National Human Rights Commission, India has today taken suo motu cognizance of series of media reports about loss of precious human lives in various parts of the country in recent times due to deficiencies and inadequacies in the healthcare system.
The Commission has observed that a large number of deaths of the innocent people including women, children and elderly persons are taking place due to lack of proper medical care, infrastructure, manpower and due to administrative failure, across the country. Apart from the death of 143 children in Muzaffarpur district of Bihar due to Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES), the Commission has recounted the loss of lives in Gorakhpur due to Japanese Encephalitis, death of newly born infants and other patients due to failure of oxygen supply, carrying of dead bodies by family members on their shoulders because of non-availability of ambulances, incidents of delivery of babies in front of the hospitals due to negligence and non-availability of doctors etc.
The Commission has reminded the Central/State Governments of their constitutional duty under Article 21 of the Constitution under which Right to Life is guaranteed. Quoting the Supreme Court of India, the Commission has observed that right to live with human dignity is part of Right to Life. Referring to the widespread malnutrition prevalent in several States, the Commission observed that it is the primary duty of the State under Article 47 of the Constitution to raise the level of nutrition and standard of living of its people, which the Commission observed, the State has failed.
The Commission underlined that success of a public health care system lies in easy accessibility, availability and affordability of treatment and it is the responsibility of the State to ensure comprehensive health care facilities for all. The Commission noted the Central Government’s Ayushman Bharat Scheme and several such other schemes running in the States in different names to provide health and medical care facilities especially to the people of poor strata of society. However, there is an urgent need for convergence and integration of child and maternal health schemes of Central and State Governments and their proper implementation.
The Commission has therefore issued notices to :
a) the Chief Secretaries of all the States and UTs to submit their reports within six weeks giving the details of the incidents relating to deaths due to lack of health and medical care facilities that have taken place during the last three years and steps taken by them to prevent their recurrence along with efforts made by providing relief and rehabilitation to the aggrieved; and
b) the Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India to submit a comprehensive report within four weeks on the observations made by the Commission.
The Commission has also directed that teams comprising doctors on the panel of the Commission along with the officers of the Commission will visit hospitals, primary health centres, and other health facilities in vulnerable States one by one starting with Bihar, U.P., Haryana and Punjab to conduct an on-the-spot fact-finding investigation. The teams will also take stock of the ground situation especially in vulnerable areas with regard to difficulties being faced by the people and shortcomings on the part of the respective State Government/Central agencies. The Commission finally intends to issue suitable guidelines for implementation by the State/Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
[Press Release dt. 20-06-2019]
National Human Rights Commission