New Delhi, June 5 — Three months before her delivery, 24-year-old Fatima, an illiterate labourer visited a MCD-run maternity centre for vaccination and to enquire about benefits she was entitled to. She got no response.
She gave birth to a child under a tree in full public view in the crowded Nizamuddin locality without any medical assistance. When civil rights NGOs brought this and another such incident to the attention of the Delhi High Court, a shocked judge said it only brought to fore serious deficiencies in implementation of a cluster of schemes meant to reduce infant and maternal mortality.
In a ground breaking judgment positively impacting the reproductive rights of millions of women in India, Justice S Muralidhar on Friday said the cases reveal the dissatisfactory state of implementation of the schemes that affect a large number of women and children elsewhere in the country. Under the court’s scanner are Janani Suraksha Yojana, Integrated Child Development Scheme the National Maternity Benefit Scheme, Antyodaya Anna Yojana and the National Family Benefit Scheme.
The court issued a series of directions to the Centre and Delhi Government to ensure that the benefits under these schemes are not denied to the beneficiaries. “These cases highlight the issue of protection and enforcement of the basic, fundamental and human right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution.
They focus on two inalienable survival rights that form part of the right to life: the right to health (which would include the right to access and receive a minimum standard of treatment and care in public health facilities) and in particular, the reproductive rights of the mother,” said Justice Muralidhar. The court asked the MCD and Delhi Government to jointly pay Fatima a compensation of Rs 50,000 for denial of basic maternity facilities.
An epileptic, all her medical expenses will also borne by the government.