Welfare workers in the region have blamed the deaths on malnutrition, but the government has denied these claims
In tribal-dominated Palghar district, more than 800 infants have died in the past two years, according to a report by DNA.
The report states that in the recent budget session of the state legislature, the government informed that Palghar has seen over 469 infants die in 2017-18 while 348 infants have died in 2018-19. The maternal fatalities during the same period, the report states, have been eight and five respectively.
Welfare workers in the region have blamed infant deaths on malnutrition, but the government has denied these claims, stating that the deaths have occurred due to other factors like premature birth, asphyxia and heart ailments.
On a question posed by Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) legislator Vidya Chavan, women and child development minister Pankaja Munde had replied that the government has taken all measures to check malnutrition and related deaths, and that the infant deaths were due to other diseases.
The report states that Munde had added that the women and child development department had asked the public health department to take necessary measures to prevent child and infant mortality in Jawahar taluka in Palghar district.
According to the report, these measures include providing take-home rations, or THR, for children between the ages of six months and three years, pregnant women and lactating mothers. The department is also providing freshly cooked food for children between the ages of three and six years.
The public health department has also set up Child Welfare Centres to take care of children suffering from severe acute malnutrition. Additionally, they are also given three extra meals a day, the report states.
However, along with welfare workers, former legislator and the chairman of the state government's tribal development review committee, Vivek Pandit, remains unconvinced.
"These malnourished children lack immunity, which makes them susceptible to disease. This leads to a high death rate," Pandit told the newspaper, adding that the cause of these deaths may be medically attributed to other factors, but the underlying cause lay in hunger and starvation.
"Malnutrition is not a medical problem, but a socioeconomic issue... which arises from lack of employment, incomes and facilities like pure drinking water," Pandit said.Palghar, meanwhile, is not the only tribal-dominated region to have faced this problem. Melghat, in Amravati district, also saw over 268 infant deaths in 2017-18 and 309 in 2018-19. Maternal deaths for the same period were eight and six respectively.