Himachal HC expresses displeasure over jaundice outbreak report

Shimla, April 1 (IANS) The Himachal Pradesh High Court on Friday expressed displeasure over the state government’s status report on jaundice outbreak and directed the chief secretary to file another report on the steps taken to check the disease’s spread.

The chief secretary filed the status report following court directions and also expressed sincere apologies for not complying with or carrying out its directions.

A division bench of Chief Justice Mansoor Ahmad Mir and Justice Tarlok Singh Chauhan directed the senior officer and other respondents to file the follow-up action and status report by May 3, the next date of hearing.

The bench had taken up media reports on the supply of contaminated water in Shimla as a public interest litigation.

The media reports said that water from the Ashwani Khud water treatment station, which is supplied to one third of Shimla’s population, is contaminated with sewage.

Official sources told IANS that more than 1,500 cases of jaundice, including among senior government officials, have been reported in Shimla. More than a dozen people have succumbed to the water-borne disease.

The government, on the court’s direction, provided a list of 388 officials directly or indirectly involved in supplying drinking water.

The court said that contempt proceedings would be framed against only those officials manning the lift water supply scheme and were thus responsible for taking precautions and not the ministerial staff, including drivers.

A special investigation team set up by the state to investigate the jaundice outbreak had informed the high court that the Ashwani Khud supply scheme was managed by Group D employees whereas senior officers never visited the site.

It blamed the contractors hired to operate the water treatment plant for the inflow of untreated sewage into the Ashwani Khud.

In February, the court awarded an interim compensation of Rs.200,000 to the next of kin of those who died of the disease.

Most jaundice cases in Shimla were reported from Chhota Shimla, Panthaghati, Vikas Nagar, New Shimla and Kasumpti, a health officer said.

In 2007, 2010 and 2013, a large number of people in the city tested positive for Hepatitis E, a liver problem caused by consumption of water contaminated by sewage.

Unscientific disposal of sewage and solid waste is threatening the pristine environment and water sources of Shimla, an official told IANS.

Planned for a maximum population of 16,000, Shimla is now home to 170,000 people as per the 2011 Census and generates 30.09 million litres of sewage per day.

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