Hyderabad: A two judge panel comprising Chief Justice Hima Kohli and Justice B. Vijaysen Reddy expressed its displeasure over the failure on the part of the State government in handling the second wave of Covid spread in Telangana. The Chief Justice remarked that if no concrete steps in the form of intensifying the restrictions or imposition of night curfew are taken up by the State government within the next two days, the court would be forced to step in and play the role of the executive. “Do you want to be a topper like Delhi? You sure are heading there,” she said caustically.
Criticising the Health Secretary for the response to the earlier directions, she said that if the officials did not understand the seriousness of the situation, the court would not be a silent spectator. “Do not then blame us for entering your territory,” she said. The court in its previous hearing had directed the State to form an advisory committee under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 consisting of experts in the field of disaster management having practical experience of disaster management.
According to the panel, no steps have been taken for the formation of such a committee. The panel questioned the functional status of the fourteen RT-PCR labs that were to be set up by the State government and in response to the same, the Health Secretary requested four weeks for setting up the same. The reasoning of the secretary was that adequate training has to be provided to the staff recruited in these labs.
The panel directed the State government to publicise information on the micro-containment zones that are to be declared through media bulletins and include data of newly declared containment zones. In response to the question of the panel on public information on the availability of hospital beds, the Health secretary informed the court of the government website bulletins with live updates on the availability of hospital beds throughout the State in government and private hospitals.
The panel noted that necessary steps are taken by the State to follow the Central government advisory to hasten the vaccination drive with the exception of vaccination efforts in workplaces that are yet to be proactively implemented.
The Health Secretary said there was no shortage of oxygen cylinders in government hospitals but the court sought further clarification upon a submission made by Senior counsel L Ravichander who highlighted a statement of the Health Minister requesting the centre for oxygen cylinders due to a stark shortage. The Advocate General invited efforts of public-private partnership as suggested by senior counsel who brought to light the efforts of former IPS officer Aruna Bahaguna to tackle the pandemic.
The panel directed the State to control the footfall in public places. Similar instructions were provided to curtail the number of people in public gatherings like marriages and funerals. The nature of the second wave being such that entire families were getting infected and not just individual members, the panel directed the State to take up socio-economic measures to provide meals to families that are incapable of affording the same.
“Why are you not controlling the footfalls in theatres, pubs, liquor shops etc?“ the Chief Justice asked repeatedly. The State was also advised by the panel to look into the model of ward-wise division of task forces as taken up in Maharashtra, especially in Hyderabad, Medchal, Malkajgiri, Rangareddy and Sangareddy districts that account for a majority of the positive cases in the state.
The panel posted the case to April 23 with a direction to file the next status report prior to the hearing.
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