The Bombay High Court on Thursday came down heavily on the Maharashtra government for dragging its feet over financial aid to Wadia Hospitals for women and children, and said the government has money for statues but not for public health.
A division bench of Justices S C Dharmadhikari and R I Chagla was hearing a public interest litigation seeking release of grants to Bai Jerbai Wadia Hospital for Children and Nowrosjee Wadia Maternity Hospital from the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and the state government.
The maternity hospital receives grant from the state government and the children's hospital gets it from the BMC. Government counsel Girish Godbole told the court that the state finance department has sanctioned Rs 24 crore from the contingency fund.
"The amount will be released lump sum to the Wadia Maternity Hospital within three weeks," he said.
The bench, however, said it was unimpressed with this and that the amount should be released by Friday.
"The government wants to build Babasaheb Ambedkar's statue taller than the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel statue. For all this money is there, but those people whom Ambedkar represented all his life can die?" Justice Dharmadhikari asked.
"Do people require medical aid or statues to rid themselves of ailments and diseases?" the court asked.
Public health has never been a priority for the government, the bench said, adding that the "chief minister is busy inaugurating bridges".
"We thought there are new faces at the political helm, then all these matters won't come to court. This does not auger well," the court said.
The court also said that in a city like Mumbai, which is considered as the country's commercial capital, people from the poorer section of society are refused admission to a charitable hospital.
"This is disgusting. How can people, mainly women and children, be refused admission to a hospital? Children are dying and the state machinery is not doing anything in states like Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat…should we have the same situation in Maharashtra?" Justice Dharmadhikari said.
The court said due to lack of funds, hospitals are finding it difficult to cater to the needs of patients.
"These patients cannot afford private hospitals as they are mainly from the poor section of society. They require urgent medical attention. In such circumstances, the state government is obliging nobody by making statements that funds have been sanctioned," the court said.
The BMC informed the bench that it will release Rs 14 crore for Bai Jerbai Wadia Hospital for Children.
The court posted the matter for further hearing on Friday, when the government will have to state by when the funds sanctioned will be released.