After directions of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), the Jammu and Kashmir government has released an amount worth Rs 36 lakh for families of 12 infants who died after taking spurious drugs in the Ramnagar area of Udhampur district of the union territory. These children were only suffering from cold and cough but died after consuming spurious drugs.
12 children of the remotest area of Udhampur lost their lives after consuming spurious drugs between December 2019 and January 2020. Now the J&K government has released Rs 3 lakh each for the 12 bereaved families.
In an order issued on November 16, the Health and Medical Education Department said in compliance to order passed by NHR, a sanction was being accorded to the release of Rs 36 lakh for 12 infant victims of spurious drugs in Ramnagar following approval by the Administrative Council headed by Lt Governor Manoj Sinha in its meeting held on October 7.
"The department has ordered the release of the compensation amount to the State Drug Controller for further payment as a special and exceptional infant mortality case subject to the outcome of the Special Leave Petition (SLP) pending before the Supreme Court," the order issued by Additional Chief Secretary, Vivek Bharadwaj reads.
Earlier NHRC ordered compensation in infant deaths
In January, the NHRC had recommended a compensation of Rs 3 lakh each to the families of 12 children who died due to consumption of spurious medicines in the Udhampur district between December 2019 and January last year.
The NHRC ordered the compensation in favour of the victim families, observing that there is no denial of lapse in the case though the drugs department of Jammu and Kashmir does not want to own the responsibility for it.
The complaint regarding the deaths of the infants, aged between one four years, due to consumption of spurious drugs was lodged before the commission by prominent Jammu-based social activist Sukesh C Khajuria, following which the NHRC issued a show-cause notice to the J&K government in September 2020.
J&K administration was forced to pay compensation
Sukesh Khajuria, who has been fighting for 12 helpless families said that the J&K government was forced to pay compensation following orders by the NHRC on January 18 and July 19 after the government challenged the initial order in the J-K High Court which, however, upheld the NHRC recommendations in the case.
"The case is a landmark in the history of judicial activism where the government has been ordered to pay compensation for the utter neglect and alleged callous connivance of the state drug authorities in checking the sale of spurious drugs in the remote mountainous areas," he said.
"The release of compensation amount has a rider of the outcome of SLP of the J&K government in Supreme Court but I am confident that the apex court will also provide complete justice to the infant victims," he exuded confidence.
"It is only a small step in the direction of providing succour to them and also a victory for common masses who suffer due to lack of medical care and official negligence day-in-and-day-out throughout the country", he said.
- At least 12 children, aged between one and four years, died in different areas of the Ramnagar block of J&K's Udhampur district between December 2019 and January 2020. These infants had consumed spurious drugs supplied in the area by a Himachal Pradesh-based company.
- A team of experts, deployed by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, had visited the area in January to investigate the pediatric deaths.
- Team confirmed the presence of a deadly compound that the parents had bought from a local chemist to treat their children suffering from cough and cold.
- Most of the children who died belonged to poor, scheduled caste families and their parents have little comprehension of what has happened.
- In July this year, the NHRC had directed the Jammu and Kashmir government to submit proof of payment of compensation to families of children who had died in Jammu's Ramnagar area in 2020 after consuming spurious cough syrup supplied by a Baddi-based company of Himachal Pradesh.