In the case of Mantu Das v. Union of India, A petition was submitted stressing the situation of very young children who are suffering from chronic malnutrition, living in semistarvation and protracted hunger in the Danagadi Block and largely from villages in the Jajpur District, many of whom are scheduled tribal members. Because of their vulnerability to diseases, many people have died. Additionally, it was brought up in court that these kids were cut off from the public assistance programme and other welfare programmes because they lacked Aadhar cards. It was brought out that just 160 out of the 309 residents of Ghatisahi hamlet have Aadhar cards, preventing them from receiving their monthly quotas from the public distribution system.
In a prior Order, the Court had stated that it was clear that both the State Government and the Union of India needed to take urgent action in such a circumstance. The Court had also instructed the Collector and Chief District Medical Officer collectively referred to as “CDMO” in Jajpur to visit the Danagadi Block, paying particular attention to the affected villages, including village Ghatisahi, and to report back to the Court on the corrective, ameliorative measures that had been taken.
Analysis of Court Decision
The government of Odisha has been ordered to create an action plan to meet the goal of eliminating severely and acutely malnourished children in the State of Odisha by the end of 2023, as well as reducing the number of moderately acutely malnourished children by more than half.
The court took notice of a breakdown indicating that 4 of the 11 children were severely and acutely malnourished, and 3 of the children were moderately acutely malnourished, in the affidavit submitted by the Collector, Jajpur. A female youngster with cerebral palsy and subsequent malnutrition had passed away. The remaining kids were described as “normal” kids, not belonging to the SAM or MAM groups. The Court further noted that on April 20, 2023, a female kid who had been abandoned by her family was discovered dead. She reportedly received visits from the Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karyakrama (RBSK) team as well. As a result of her cerebral palsy, the court found that she was unable to move or alert her neighbours to her situation, which indicated that there may be children in need of care who are unable to receive it despite the existence of numerous programmes at both the state and federal levels of government. In addition, the Court stated that there may still be families and children who are not protected by the Schemes, even though they are all under the age of six, belong to a tribal community, and are from the poorest socioeconomic groups.
A review meeting must be held by the Secretaries of the Departments of SME, WCD, Health and Family Welfare, Tribal Welfare, and Food and Civil Supplies within one month of the date of the order, according to instruction from the court. The Chief Secretary of the Government of Odisha was instructed to call the aforementioned meeting within the next month to develop an action plan to help the state realise its goals of eliminating SAM children by the end of 2023 and reducing MAM children by more than half. The Court further emphasised that PILs like the current one should not be seen as adversarial but rather as a chance for everyone to come together and work towards a practical solution to a recognised problem.