The Bombay High Court on Wednesday said if the Union government had started door-to-door vaccination programme for senior citizens a few months back, then lives of many of them, including prominent persons, could have been saved. A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice GS Kulkarni asked the Union government why not pro-actively start this programme when the lives of senior citizens, who are unable to go to vaccination centres to get inoculated, are concerned.
The bench was hearing a public interest litigation filed by two lawyers Dhruti Kapadia and Kunal Tiwari seeking door-to-door vaccination facility for senior citizens above the age of 75, specially-abled persons and those who are bed-ridden or wheelchair-bound. The court reiterated its earlier order of April 22 in which it asked the Union government to relook at its decision to not initiate a door-to-door vaccination programme.
"It has been three weeks and the government (Union) is yet to inform us of its decision. The government should have taken a decision one way or the other," the court said. It directed the Union government to file an affidavit by May 19, when it would hear the matter further.
The court noted that many foreign countries have already started door-to-door vaccination facilities. "In India, we do many things late and things travel to our country very slowly," Justice Kulkarni said.
Why not start this (door-to-door vaccination) pro- actively when the lives of senior citizens are concerned? the court asked. "Speaking off the cuff, if we had a door-to-door vaccination programme sometime back, then so many of our senior citizens, including prominent members of society from various walks of life, who have lost their lives to COVID-19, could have been saved," Justice Kulkarni said.
The court further said it had seen photographs of senior citizens and many wheelchair-bound persons waiting outside vaccination centres in long queues. "This was very heart-rending and not a good sight.
They must be already suffering from so many ailments and now they face the risk of being infected with COVID-19 also (while) waiting in such crowds," the bench said. The court noted that senior judges of the HC had a meeting with Birhanmumbai Municipal Commissioner Iqbal Chahal on Tuesday where he said the civic body was planning to start ward-wise vaccination camps from next week, which would have the capacity to inoculate 70,000 people per day.
"If such camps are starting, then maybe senior citizens and people who cannot step out of their homes can be identified and the staff can go to their homes and vaccinate them," Chief Justice Datta suggested. The bench directed the BMC to file an affidavit stating details of the same and by when it would begin and what steps the corporation plans to take for the next few days with regard to the vaccination programme.
The court noted that the availability of vaccines was also a problem. To this, Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh told the court that the Covishield vaccine would be made available in a few days.
The court also sought to know from the civic body about what measures it plans to take for the vaccination of homeless people, beggars and those living on streets. "They are also a significant population and are spreaders of the coronavirus, the HC said.