The Uttarakhand High Court has rapped the Centre for not paying heed to the medical needs of people in remote areas of the state amid the raging second wave of COVID-19, saying it is treating the hill state like a “step-child”.
The high court also took note of the crowd control measures in place at Chardham shrines in view of COVID-19, and remarked “why do we keep causing embarrassment to ourselves”.
Hearing a batch of PILs pertaining to the state’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, a division bench of Chief Justice RS Chauhan and Justice Alok Verma on Thursday said the Centre had not responded yet to the requests for extending a helping hand to the remote areas of the state where medical facilities are scarce and asked why Uttarakhand was being overlooked.
The high court asked the state’s Health Secretary to urge the Centre to provide 1,000 oxygen concentrators and distribution of other essentials required for Covid care especially in remote areas where medical facilities are scarce.
A letter had been written to the Government of India and the Prime Minister’s Office on May 10 but no reply has yet been received, the court said.
Expressing its displeasure at this, the high court asked, “Why is it that Uttarakhand is being neglected? Why is it receiving a step-child treatment from the Centre? Even high ranking officials from Uttarakhand posted in the PMO are not responding to the requests and are instead sitting upon the interests of the state.”
The high court also questioned the rationality of the Centre’s oxygen distribution policy when it was informed that despite producing 350 metric tonnes of oxygen, the state is being forced to import 40 per cent of its allocated quota of 183 MT from Durgapur and Jamshedpur.
It is as absurd as asking someone who grows wheat not to use his own produce and get it from someone else, the court said.
The court asked as to why the oxygen quota of Uttarakhand is not being increased to 300 tonnes, given its terrain and need for oxygen. It asked the Central Government’s lawyer as to why Uttarakhand was being neglected in such a manner.
The court also asked about crowd control measures being taken at Chardham temples which opened recently for regular prayers.
Tourism Secretary Dilip Jawalkar informed the Court about the number of people earmarked to perform duties at each temple.
But the court said the social media tells a very different story. It further observed that nobody was following these crowd control measures. It advised Mr Jawalkar to take the next chopper to Chardham and find what the reality is.
Showing its displeasure at the situation, the court said, “Why do we keep causing embarrassment to ourselves. You may fool the court, but you cannot fool the people. The reality exists out there. You are playing with the lives of millions of people in the country.”