MHRC issues notice to Meghalaya Govt. on death of 877 newborn  

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Seeking detailed reports over the death of 877 newborn infants and 61 pregnant women in the state, the Meghalaya Human Rights Commission (MHRC) on Tuesday issued notices to the health & family welfare and social welfare departments.

Hearing a petition filed by an asocial activist, Agnes Kharshiing, the MHRC has directed the Commissioner and Secretary, Department of Health and Services, and Additional Chief Secretary of Social Welfare Department to answer the allegations made by the petitioner. “…to submit a detailed report on the matter so as to reach the state commission within 30 days from the date of receipt of the notice for further necessary orders,” the Commission said in its order.

The commission also expressed deep concern with the matter which raises serious issues of violation of human rights as Article 21 of the Constitution mandates for the protection of life and personal liberty to every citizen and the right to life and health is a fundamental right and it is the paramount duty of the state to protect and safeguard such rights of any individual.

In her petition, Kharshiing, also, the president of the Civil Society of Women’s Organization (CSWO), sought the intervention of the MHRC with regards to the death of 877 newly born infant and 61 pregnant women in the state during the month of April till July, this year due to diseases other than the coronavirus.

She states that the death of the 877 newborn infants and 61 pregnant women as clarified by the Director of Health Services is that death was due to lack of medical attention care, pneumonia, and birth asphyxia and the death of most of the pregnant women was that they were not admitted to the hospital or health care centre for institutional delivery.

Kharshiing further stated that the state has 12 big hospitals including those private ones, 30 Community Health Centres (CHCs), 110 Primary Health Centres (PHCs), and also government-run civil hospitals in each of the 11 district headquarters, and the state suffers from a paucity of ambulances with only 72 ambulances serving the entire state with one or two ambulances for PHCs and CHCs.

She alleged that the right to health is integral to the right to life, and the government has a constitutional obligation to provide health facilities which in this case the fundamental rights under Article 21 is being violated. Meanwhile, the Meghalaya State Commission for Women and the Meghalaya State Commission for Protection of Child Rights were also impleaded as opposite party respondents in the case.