Taking note of the difficulties faced by jailed Telugu poet Varavara Rao, who tested positive for COVID-19 yesterday, the National Human Rights Commission on Friday observed that it was necessary that the Maharashtra Government should give him "the best possible treatment in a reputed super specialty private hospital without any further delay".
"It is a question of saving a precious human life leaving apart the legal aspect of the matter. It is, therefore, necessary that the State Government should provide Shri Rao the best possible treatment in a reputed super specialty private hospital without any further delay", the Commission noted in the order.
Furthermore, the Commission pressed upon the Chief Secretary, Government of Maharashtra to look into the matter personally-
"Shri Vara Vara Rao is an Under Trial Prisoner presently in the custody of the State. Hence, the government must ensure that all the expenditure of the medical treatment of Shri Rao to be borne by the State being his lawful custodian. The Chief Secretary, Government of Maharashtra is expected to submit the compliance report, immediately."
The intervention of the Commission happened on a complaint filed by human rights activist Ms. Maja Daruwala regarding the difficulties being faced by Rao, who is suffering from many ailments due to which his health condition is deteriorating.
On July 13, the Commission had directed the State of Maharashtra through the Chief Secretary to constitute a medical board to examine the health condition of 81-year-old Telugu poet and to see whether the treatment being provided to him is appropriate.
The Commission had also issued notices to the Chief Secretary and Director General (Prisons), Maharashtra calling for a report regarding the treatment being given to Rao who tested positive for Covid-19 at JJ Hospital yesterday, within two weeks.
Taking cognizance of the matter, in proceedings dated July 13, NHRC observed that the right to life and medical care is one of the basic human rights and the State is duty bound to provide a prisoner who is in its custody, appropriate medical care so that there is no danger to his life.
In the meantime, the Commission received several communications including Ms. Maja Daruwala regarding his deteriorating health, and the present order was accordingly passed.
Rao, who is lodged at Taloja jail for his alleged role in the caste based violence that took place at Bhima Koregaon on January 1, 2018, tested positive after a routine swab test done on July 14. Offences under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act have been invoked against him on alleged Maoist links. He was admitted to JJ Hospital and as it is not a Covid hospital, Rao was shifted to another state run hospital called St.George's.
NHRC noted in its order-
"The Commission has already taken cognizance of the matter and the report called for from the State authorities is yet to be received but the further developments in the matter are serious in nature, forcing the Commission to consider all the facts minutely. It is established that the persons above the age of 60 years with co-morbidities are more vulnerable if they are Covid positive. The health condition of Shri Rao, as mentioned in the various communications, was already worrisome and now when he has been tested positive for the Covid-19, danger to his life has grown bigger which is a matter of concern for the Commission".
Importantly, Rao's wife Hemlata and their two daughters along with his nephew Venugopal, met him yesterday at JJ Hospital and found him in a pathetic condition as he was lying in urine soaked clothes for hours, and with very little nursing aid available. According to the family members, Rao could not recognize his wife and daughters immediately and the nurses in the hospital told the family members that there was no equipment or treatment available to be given to the patient in the transit ward.
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