1 February 2013 – RANCHI – The Honorable High Court of Jharkhand has issued notices to the Centre and State Respondents and demanded replies regarding the high maternal mortality rate in Godda District. Given the gravity of the situation, the High Court has ordered the Respondents to file their replies within four weeks, by 1 March 2013. The petition, filed by HRLN advocate Ahmed Raza on behalf of the All India Progressive Women Association, Jharkhand Chapter, provides the harrowing details of 24 maternal deaths recorded in Godda District between April 2011 and February 2012.
At 278 maternal deaths per every 100,000 live births, Jharkhand’s Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) is higher than the national average of 212. These numbers fail to account for underreporting and extreme differences between districts and villages. Godda District, for example, has an MMR of about 823. Preventable delays at each stage caused the death of women like Shamina Khatoon, age 19. Doctors at Shamina’s Community Health Centre (CHC) transferred her to a Medical College in the next state, Bihar, for a blood transfusion. The Medical College is 70 kilometers, or two hours, from the CHC. Shamina died en route to the Medical College after her family spent Rs. 4,000 on private vehicles and medicines. Under domestic and international law, Shamina’s preventable death is a violation of the right to life and the right to be free from discrimination under the Constitution of India.
The Petition outlines failures to implement government schemes to reduce maternal mortality and demands compensation for the victims’ families, implementation of a centralized referral system, training modules for health workers, data collection, maternal death audits, an accountable transportation system, and a review of National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) implementation in the State.
As a part of a nation-wide maternal mortality litigation strategy, HRLN will continue to hold the Centre Government and the State of Jharkhand accountable for violations of the right to life, health, and non-discrimination.
The Human Rights Law Network (HRLN) is a collective of lawyers and social activists dedicated to the use of the legal system to advance human rights in India and the sub-continent. To learn more visit hrln.org.
Advocate Ahmed Raza
Director, Reproductive Rights Unit
Human Rights Law Network