Shame for Mandi district admin, leaves mentally ill destitute to live in inhuman conditions

The SDM Sundernagar did nothing even after 55 days of complaint, almost two months. In two months, the SDM couldn’t provide even temporary shelter and food for just two people? Two living people are suffering every second they spent on road, alone without anyone available to take their responsibility. They can’t speak of their pain and suffering. One can show wounds to others or a doctor can easily diagnose a physical health issue, but mental illness is the worst of all.

MANDI – A reader has sent us a demonstration of insensitivity, lack of empathy, and lack of concern towards responsibilities given to HPS and IAS officers. It reflects on how state of Himachal Pradesh and its previous and present governments perceived the issue of mental health. It’s a matter of shame for the State of Himachal Pradesh and Government of India to display such inhuman attitude towards those who needs them most.

Himachal’s government and its people are neither concerned nor aware about the biggest irony of human life – mental illness and mental disorders.

For a moment consider your-self as the Sub-Divisional Magistrate or SSP of Sundarnagar in Mandi district, Himachal Pradesh. Now, someone brought to your notice that there are two mentally ill and destitute persons wandering on Sundarnagar roads. They are living in inhuman conditions as they are suffering from some serious mental disorder. The complainant request to take action to provide relief to these unfortunate, suffering souls as soon as possible. Each and every day that they spent on roads, eating from garbage, sleeping on roadsides with no roof over their head, adds to their suffering. What would you do?

Leave apart the concept that Right to Life under Article -21 of Indian constitution that directs state authority to take appropriate action for rehabilitation and treatment of mentally challenged or those suffering from mental disorders, and defines it the responsibility of the state to ensure shelter to destitute who are not able to take care of themselves due to mental illness.

As a human what would you do? The SDM Sundernagar did nothing even after 55 days of complaint, almost two months. The SDM and the DC were sent a proper complaint with photographs of the mentally ill destitute person for easy identification.

On May 12, the SDM and SSP were directed by the DC to take appropriate and necessary action to ensure rehabilitation of these people. But, non of them moved a muscle. The complainant again retaliated aggressively for inactivity of the SDM and wrote to him again. But as a last ray of hope, he turned to media. He sent the same grievance to other dailies too. We are not sure if it was published anywhere.


Take a look at the official documents containing the original complaints, direction of the DC to SDM, and RTI filed by Thakur Karam Pratap Singh, CEO, Vasudha, a Himachal based social welfare organization

In two months, the SDM couldn’t provide even temporary shelter and food for just two people? This is the concern for a grievance that asks for immediate action? Two living people are suffering every second they spent on road, alone without anyone available to take their responsibility. They can’t speak of their pain and suffering. One can show wounds to others or a doctor can easily diagnose a physical health issue, but mental illness is the worst of all. Here, the normal operational capabilities of human brain are damaged. A person suffering from mental disorder is helpless. They wander with naked feet seeking food. They don’t even beg. They don’t know to how to beg or of any such concept. They don’t know where to approach for help. They don’t have words to speak of their pain.

Mentally ill destitute in Sundarnagar 2

These HAS officers are said to be highly qualified for such high rank government positions. They take tough examinations and qualify personal interviews in order to get there. But we see, they are worst than the kind illiterates.

Unfortunately, the Chief Minsiter of Himachal Pradesh, Virbhadra Singh, shares, more of less, the same attitude when comes to recognizing and attending mental health issues. We doubt, if they know the difference between mental health, mental well-being and mental disorders. Anyway, now, let’s take at Centre governments useless and populist announcements.

In Octobor, 2014, Health minister Harsh Vardhan launched India’s first-ever National Mental Health Policy with a promise of delivering universal psychiatric care to a massive population suffering from various kind of mental illness or disorders.

The Mental Health Action Plan 365 very clearly defined the roles of the central government, state governments, and local bodies along with civil society organizations in the upcoming year. The government also promised a mental health bill in Parliament.

This policy wasn’t motivated by will, empathy and concern for mentally ill, destitute population living in poverty. It was because, WHO survey sited that India has the highest number of suicides in the world. An article in the NY Times regarding the WHO statistics said:

According to the World Health Organization, of 804,000 suicides recorded worldwide in 2012, 258,000 were in India. Indian youths between 15 and 29 years old kill themselves at a rate of 35.5 deaths per 100,000 — the highest in the world — and suicide has surpassed maternal mortality as the leading cause of death of young Indian women.

While government claims curbing substance use, it failed to understand the relation between substance abuse and mental health troubles like depression, bipolar disorder, stress and other issues. Presently, school students and adolescence in Himachal are more vulnerable to substance use because of unending stress mounting on them due to rising competition in professional fields. Still, majority of parents believe that their children are failure if they could not become either doctor, engineer or HPS or IAS. We hope, you read about recent suicide cases in Himachal where students hanged themselves under extreme mental stress.

In India, depression accounts for more than 258,000 of the 804,000 suicide deaths worldwide in 2012.
The WHO report had also highlighted the condition of home for destitute and institutions provided for the rehabilitation of mentally ill people. The article further said;

A report from Human Rights Watch released in December exposed the horrific conditions in institutions where too many Indian women with mental and intellectual disabilities are confined, many against their will, and where some are subject to physical and sexual abuse and electric-shock therapy.

If that’s not enough to get your attention, then WHO report also informed that in India, there is only one psychiatrist for every 343,000 people. That’s the ratio of the availability of skilled mental health professionals for present population of India. That means negligible health support. Rather, it’s a matter of shame for India.

Take a look at the expenditure made on mental health in the graph given below:

Indian Mental Health challenge

India spends just 0.06 % of total health budget on mental health. It absurd to know that the suicide rate in India is highest in the world. The total expenditure on health as a percentage of gross domestic product is 4.16 % and the per capita government expenditure on health (PPP) is $22.0.

In 2013, Mental Health Bill was introduced and new policy was launched. The government claimed it as a landmark in delivering mental health care worldwide. But their claims are sandwiched between official files while the funds are already allotted.

In 1982, India’s National Mental Health Programme (NMHP) was implemented. Since then, the governments are fooling people and mocking at the worsening state of mental health in India.

You see, in India, even mentally and physically healthy, highly educated and well to do people never care to find out where all those gigantic amounts of public money disappear year after year since Independence. Obviously, who is going to speak for these destitute and mentally unwell creatures?

An article on Wall Street Journal throws light on the stigma and lack of awareness about mental health in India. Considering the report of Ms. Ramanathan, a US based medical student, it said:

Quality research methods are not part of Indian medical school education — it’s still a system of rote learning. The research, on the social determinants of depressive-anxiety disorders among women, entailed asking questions about marital history, violence, safety and autonomy. The female resident, although qualified as a psychiatrist, didn’t seem to think counseling was a requirement for women whose husbands physically or verbally abused them. The psychiatrist adopted a “these things happen here,” attitude.

The conditions in rural areas are far worst. The people here in India know nothing about the causes of or differences between depression and tension. Stress and Anxiety is considered mere nervousness. At maximum, patients are taken to ‘Tantriks’ for cure because people still believe it to be a paranormal phenomenon.

Himachal is just another State of India that is literally unaware of what the term mental health actually defines. The absence of mental disorder doesn’t mean that a person is mentally healthy. According to S.S. Chauhan, author of Advanced Educational Psychology:

Mental health is a condition which permits maximum development of physical, social, intellectual and emotional status of the individual so that he/she can contribute to maximum for the welfare of the society and realize ideas and aims in life.

It’s time that government must start pay attention to this critical issue – rehabilitation and treatment of destitute people with mental illness. There are a number of destitute and mentally unwell people who are helpless and are struggling to survive in inhuman conditions.

Already, there is a PIL pending with HP High Court regarding the treatment and rehabilitation of mentally ill destitute. The PIL was filed by Mr. Subhash Kumar, a resident of Shimla, in 2011. Taking note of it, the High Court had directed the Superintendent of Police at every district to rake responsibility if such cases are brought to their notice. However, final judgement is still pending, and so is relief from suffering to the victims.

However, nothing has changed except that police chases away these destitute people out of their area on complaint. We appreciate the efforts that Vasuda is making to get justice for these suffering souls.

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