The Uttarakhand High Court on Tuesday expressed deep concern over the "pitiable condition" of Quarantine Centers at the village level in the state and it directed the concerned District Magistrates to take necessary steps to ameliorate the situation.
A direction is also made to submit a report regarding "rapid testing" in the state.
On a perusal of the reports submitted by various District Legal Services Authorities in the state, the bench of Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia and Justice Ravindra Maithani observed,
"The sense which we are getting after studying these reports is that the quarantine centers which have been established at Village level are the worst of the lot. These quarantine centres in villages are mostly functioning in Government Primary Schools and Secondary Schools. Their condition, as per the reports is pitiable."
The court noted that there are no facilities in these centers to provide food to the inmates. "Food is being provided by the villagers and the family members of the inmates," the bench observed.
In many of these Quarantine Centers, the bench observed, there were only 1 or 2 toilets among 20-30 inmates.
"In many of these quarantine centers where the inmates are more than 20 to 30, there are only 1 or 2 toilets. What is most shocking is that the hygienic condition of these toilets is also extremely poor. Most of these toilets are not clean. Apart from this, many of the toilets which are in urban areas are in bad conditions, as these toilets are not being cleaned regularly," the Court observed.
The bench was of the opinion that the plight is due to lack of funds with the Gram Sabhas that are responsible to oversee the operation of these Centers. Accordingly it directed,
"What is absolutely necessary is to maintain the quarantine centers at village level, for which proper funds be provided to the "Gram Sabhas"…for which there has to be a proper coordination between District Magistrates and the panchayat level officers and the elected representatives of the people. Where the "Gram Pradhans", are presently not functioning, for whatever reason, alternative arrangements shall be made through a designated official by the concerned District Magistrate."
On May 5, 2020, the Government of Uttarakhand had directed all the District Magistrates to coordinate with the Gram Sabhas and Gram Pradhans of such villages where these quarantine centers have been established and provide them with funds and see to it that these quarantine centers are properly managed.
However, the Court was "afraid that this is not being done properly as of now."
The Court therefore directed the Secretary, Health and the Secretary, Disaster Management, Government of Uttarakhand, to pass appropriate orders to the District Magistrates so that their own order dated 04.05.2020 is implemented in its letter and spirit and there are enough funds with the Gram Sabhas to manage and run these centers.
Meanwhile, the Health Secretary has also been asked to remove all the shortcomings in the Quarantine Centers that have been established at the State's borders, pursuant to Court order dated May 20.
Through the said order, the High Court had directed the State Government that as far as possible the quarantine centers should be established in border districts. However, in view of relaxation in the lockdown restrictions, the court concurred with the Government's submission that it will not be possible to establish more quarantine centers in the border towns.
"We realise that under the changed situation it may not be practical for the authorities to establish new centres. Keeping these contingencies in mind we had qualified our order stating that "all possible efforts be made". Needless to say the authorities shall keep the emerging conditions in mind while implementing our order," the order read.
Further it has added,
"The quarantine centres already existing should be improved, in the light of what we have already said above.
We direct the Secretary, Health, Government of Uttarakhand and the concerned District Magistrate to remove all the shortcomings in these quarantine centers."
Before parting, the court also sought the details of such hotels that have been converted into quarantine centers and are reportedly charging from the inmates.
"The Secretary, Health has apprised this Court that there are hotels earmarked as "quarantine centers", for which Rs.950/-(Rupees Nine Hundred Fifty only) per person is being given by the State Government, only if a luxury hotel is demanded by the affected person is he being charged.
Let the details of such hotels and discrepancies be given by the State to this Court by the next date of listing," the order states.
The matter will now be taken up on June 17.
Last week, the High Court had expressed deep dissatisfaction on the measures being taken by both the Central as well as the State Government to bring back the migrants who are stranded in various parts of the country, amid the lockdown.
"The indifference exhibited by the haves, to the plight of these have nots who are forced to walk for miles together without food and water (during peak summer when several parts of the country are seeing a record surge in day temperature), is extremely disturbing," the court had observed.
Case Title: Sachdanand Dabral v. Union of India & Ors. (and other connected matters)
Case No.: WP (PIL) No. 58/2020
Quorum: Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia and Justice Ravindra Maithani
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