The High Court of Gujarat recently directed the Centre and the State of Gujarat to elucidate on the steps being taken to provide emergency medical services to fishermen on and off the shore, more particularly, in the coastal areas.
The Petition before the Court has been filed by a fisherman, Mr. Jandurbhai Menshibhai Baladhiya, demanding a direction to the State authorities to assess the extent of the requirement of emergency medical services along the sea and coastal areas of the State of Gujarat. Mr. Baladhiya seeks a probe into the feasibility of linking the Indian Coast Guards, Search and Rescue operations (SAR) system with facilities providing emergency medical services at the sea. He further urges that the authorities be directed to submit a report of such assessment within a period of 3 months, in view of the “gravity of the situation”.
The Petition brings to the notice of the Court the fact that even though GVK EMRI (Emergency Management and Research Institute) in Gujarat has the capability to operate Boat ambulances in areas that are better accessible by waterways than roadways, the amount of time that such ambulances would take to reach the fishermen would “defeat the idea behind provision of an emergency medical service.” It further claims that the absence of emergency medical services adds to the socio-economic fragility of the fishermen community.
The Petitioner relies on Article 21 of the Constitution of India, to aver that the “Government has a constitutional obligation to provide health facilities”. It further cites Article 39 of the Indian Constitution, which makes the State responsible to formulate a policy to secure the health and strength of workers, men and women.
The Petition thereafter contends, “The issue of an emergency medical service needs severe and urgent consideration not only for the villages mentioned herein but also other villages along the coastline. Having a coastline covering more than 1,600 km, Gujarat has a large number of fishermen who have to go to the water as part of their trade. The extent of the damage is much more than what the petitioner has been able to submit and it is now the responsibility of the state to assess and map the data and provide appropriate relief.”
Read the Petition here.