Jharkhand High Court issues order in Petition on High Maternal Mortality Rates in Jharkhand


RANCHI (PRESS RELEASE) – On 2nd April 2013, the High Court of Jharkhand at Ranchi ordered the State Respondents to submit a report and account for the high number of maternal deaths in the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) All India Progressive Women, Jharkhand vs. Union of India & Ors., W.P. (C) 7032 of 2012. Jharkhand reports a state-wide maternal mortality rate (MMR) of 278 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, while Godda District has a MMR of 823.5. This MMR gives Godda District the joint sixth highest MMR in the world. In January 2012 a fact-finding team investigated 24 maternal deaths that occurred between April 2011 and February 2012. Following their report, HRLN Jharkhand state unit advocate Mr. Ahmed Reza filed a PIL seeking full implementation of government maternal health schemes including the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), Janani Surakshan Yojana (JSY), National Maternity Benefit Scheme (NMBS), and Integrated Child Development Schemes (ICDS) to put an end to preventable maternal deaths in Jharkhand. In response to the petition, the Respondents established an expert committee to investigate the high number of maternal deaths in the District consisting of the Director of Health Services, State Reproductive and Child Health officers, Regional Deputy Director of Health Services (Santhal Division), Administrative and Finance Officers, and Dr. Gunjam Taneja (State Representative, MCHIP). The January 2012 fact-finding team visited a number of hospitals and medical facilities in the District and spoke to people who live in the area and use the public health care system. The team also spoke with families of women who died during or just after delivery. The fact-finding report documents 24 maternal deaths that occurred between April 2011 and February 2012. This finding and the state government’s failure to implement NRHM or any of its umbrella schemes formed the basis of the petition. The team also documented widespread failures in the District’s public health infrastructure. The state has not posted sufficient medical personnel to facilities or created even a single blood transfusion centre. The state has made health care inaccessible at every level; low level subcentres are largely not functional and Godda lacks a tertiary treatment facility or District Hospital. Accordingly, the district has a remarkable referral rate. These factors force pregnant women to travel long distances for emergency obstetric care, cause unnecessary delays in maternal health care, and contribute to the high number of maternal deaths. The High Court has ordered the state-installed committee to prepare a status report and present it to the Court on 10th June 2013. This is an important and necessary development for women in Jharkhand and heralds heightened monitoring of and accountability for maternal deaths in Jharkhand. 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. Visit hrln.org to learn more. For further information on this case, please contact: Sarita Barpanda, Director Reproductive Rights Initiative Email: sarita@hrln.org