Guwahati, Friday, August 20, 2010
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Mentally deranged destitutes meted out raw deal
Kabita Duarah
 GUWAHATI, Aug 19 – How long would the authorities concerned ignore the plight of these mentally deranged individuals roaming around the capital city and eating out of garbage bins?

Though the Mental Health Act 1987 has clearly defined the role of the men in khaki in ensuring protection to the mentally-ill destitute, this provision and other conditions of the Act have been blatantly flouted much to the concern of the social activists here.

As per the provision of the Mental Health Act (Provision 23), the officer-in-charge of any police station may take course of action for the protection of any mentally-ill person found wandering at large within the limits of his station. The officer should produce such a person before the nearest magistrate within 24 hours so that the particular person may undergo treatment as per the further provisions of the Act.

But unfortunately this crucial provision in the Act has been ignored which otherwise would have ensured that the citizens are saved those surprised and terrifying encounters with one of the mentally ill living in the city.

“It is quite regrettable that most of the people are ignorant about the Mental Health Act right to the government officials,” said Ketaki Bardalai, a social activist who is currently advocating the cause of the mentally-ill destitute.

It needs to be mentioned here that the first case of the mentally ill destitute entertained here by the legal authorities and other government agencies under the Mental Health Act was the case moved by the Human Rights Law Network (HRLN) under 25(2) of the Act. The applicant was Bardalai. The case was concerning a mentally ill person from Uzan Bazar area.

As per direction of the CJM Court, Guwahati, the person was admitted in the Gauhati Medical College Hospital (GMCH).

By an order dated 06.07.2010 of the Sub Divisional Judicial Magistrate-I, (SDJM) Kamrup, this mentally ill person is now in Lokapriya Gopinath Bordoloi Regional Institute of Mental Health in Tezpur for treatment.

Urban Kamrup has 26 police stations but what is noticed is that either due to lack of awareness or sheer callousness, the officers-in-charge of all the police stations never produce such wandering mentally ill individuals under section 23 of the Mental Health Act, 1987.

Around the city, sights such as mentally deranged individuals shouting, singing or just roaming about is very common. One such person, a youth about 25 to 30 years has been leading his days near a fallen tree nearby in the Jorpukhury area of Ujanbajar. He has been consuming food from the nearby garbage bins and drinking and taking bath in the city drains. But no one is bothered about this man and there is a police station within a 50 meters radius. The HRLN will interfere for this person too very soon.

“The provisions of the Mental Health Act have ensured that the general public can play a very pivotal role towards the uplift of the mentally ill destitutes,” said Pabitra Hazarika, an advocate of HRLN.

Hazarika said that the capital city can tend to only 100 mentally ill of all categories whereas in Guwahati alone there were more than 100 mentally ill destitutes wandering around. The GMCH Psychiatric Department has only 60 seats but they are for those mentally ill persons who have attendants with them. There is no Psychiatric Hospital in the district of Kamrup. There is one Psychiatric Nursing Home in Guwahati by the name of Guwahati Psychiatric Hospital at Panjabari with intact capacity of 40.

Elsewhere treatment for the mentally ill is available in B.G Hospital in Dibrugarh and at Lokapriya Gopinath Bordoloi Regional Institute of Mental Health in Tezpur.

“We along with advocate JP Gogoi of Gauhati High Court filed a second case regarding another mentally ill without any proper care and control sighted near Ananda Nagar who could give his name as Kartik Roy. By an order dated 05/08/2010 of the SDJM-I, Kamrup he is now undergoing treatment in Tezpur,” informed Hazarika adding that the HRLN was preparing some other cases regarding the mentally ill.

Section 15 says that if a major person considers himself to be mentally ill person he or she can approach any psychiatric hospital and psychiatric nursing home for his treatment as a right.

Section 20 says that the medical officer-in charge of any psychiatric hospital or psychiatric nursing home, the husband, wife or any other relative of the mentally ill person may make an application for reception order for admission and detention of a mentally ill person in a psychiatric hospital and psychiatric nursing home to the nearest magistrate for treatment.

Section 25(2) says that any private person who has reason to believe that any mentally ill person is not under proper care and control or is ill- treated or neglected by any relative or other person having charge of such mentally ill person can report the facts to the nearest magistrate.

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