Campaign to rescue homeless, mentally ill people in Himachal failed by apathy of district admin and police

SHIMLA– As an highly appreciable step, Shimla-based NGO started a campaign on social media in Himachal Pradesh to bring back smile on the faces of hundreds of shelter-less, mentally ill people living by roadsides in miserable, inhuman conditions despite having constitutional rights. The NGO’s campaign aims to use social media to identify these voiceless men and women.

The NGO, Umang Foundation, received good response from public but, unfortunately,  it was failed  by the district administrations and police department. The NGO is receiving such a poor response that it had to organize a press conference to highlight the matter. Despite being officially responsible for the rescue, treatment, and rehabilitation of such people, the officials of the district administrations and police mostly ignored the appeals for rescue of identified patients.

It’s disheartening that the rights of disabled are in danger in Dev Bhoomi. These unfortunate people are not only suffering from mental illness but are also facing the harsh realities of the material world and are incapable of fighting for their rights. It appears to be an advantage for the State government.

As the campaign gathered momentum, the NGO immediately started taking up the matter with concerned district authorities to take cognisance of them under Mental Health Act, 1987 and tried to ensure their psychiatric treatment.

But the response from the police and administration is not good,

said NGO in its statement.

The Chairman of the NGO, Mr. Ajai Srivastava, said that he received very negative response from police and administration of Sirmour district where two mentally ill women were living without shelter in Paonta Sahib town.
He wrote letters to the Deputy Commissioner and Superintendent of Police and made calls to rescue them but nothing was done. The women are still living at the mentioned place in miserable, inhuman condition.

Quoting the examples of state capital Shimla, he said that acting on his letter, the DC of Shimla sent a mentally ill person directly to the old age home without taking him under police protection and presenting before a judicial magistrate, which was mandatory under the Act.

In another case, Srivastava mailed a letter and talked to the DC when a mentally ill person was seen near Vidhan Sabha. He requested the DC to take immediate steps under the Mental Health Act, which he ignored completely and that man could not be rescued.

Further, Mr. Srivastava said that he has also sent a letter to the DC and SP of Kullu district to rescue a mentally ill person from village Bayal, near Rampur Hydro Power Project. However, he has received no response from the administration.

However, he appreciated the prompt action taken by Rakesh Kanwar, DC of Solan and  SDM of Theog in Shimla district after receiving a request from him to rescue one person each in their respective areas. The ailing old sadhu Hauman Dass from Solan district was shifted to Old Age Home at Basantpur after medical checkup. In the second case, the severely mentally ill youth from Theog was admitted to Mental Hospital after producing him before a judicial magistrate.

He said that DC of Solan has been requested to rescue an ailing, severely mentally ill man from a rain shelter near Chamakadi Pul on Shimla- Bilaspur road who is in need of immediate medical help. One ‘dhaba wala’ Sanjay Thakur is kind enough to take care of him these days.

Homeless in Himachal Pradesh

An elderly, homeless, and mentally ill man awaits rescue at ‘Chamakhadi Pul’ Rainshelter

The NGO has also urged the government to launch two awareness campaigns, one for common masses through print, electronic and social media and another in Educational Institutions for the students about the rights of mentally ill persons and social duties of citizens towards them.

The NGO has also written a letter to the state chief secretary V.C. Pharka, the Chairman of the NGO saying that the government is duty-bound to protect legal and human rights of shelterless mentally ill persons. As part of it, a statewide drive should be started with the help of local NGOs to locate them. He has urged the government to increase the intake capacity of State Mental Hospital to accommodate more patients.

The NGO also asked the government to start sensitization program about Mental Health Act at all levels in the police department. 

Himachal Watcher also requests to people of the State to help track such people and bring them to the attention of the NGOs and government through social media. A picture and a few words could bring some respite for these people. 

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