MHC superintendent shifted; further action based on report

The Health Ministry swung into action on Saturday following the revelation that the death of an inmate in the Peroorkada Mental Health Centre (MHC) on December 4 was a murder. The superintendent of the centre was transferred and a probe panel has been set up, which will submit a report within two days, based on which further action will be initiated.

Case transferred

The police, meanwhile, transferred the case from the Kilimanoor police station to the Peroorkada station, where a murder case has been registered. The Peroorkada Circle Inspector would investigate into the case, P. Vimaladitya, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Law and Order), Thiruvananthapuram City, said.

Health Minister V.S. Sivakumar, who paid a visit to the centre late on Saturday, said the superintendent had been transferred to his former post — additional district medical officer — while the Directorate of Health Services had constituted a four-member panel that would probe into the incident and submit a report within two days. The panel began its proceedings by recording statements from the centre staff on Saturday.

CCTV cameras

The Minister told The Hindu that 20 posts of staff nurses would be created for the MHC, while four assistant surgeon posts too were created. Apart from these, 11 nurses on contract would be recruited via the National Rural Health Mission to tide over the staff shortage in the MHC. The government had also sanctioned Rs.20 lakh to install closed circuit television cameras in the centre. Administrative sanction too had been accorded for this and the cameras were expected to be installed by the end of this month. Plans were also afoot to construct a new building for the centre, Mr. Sivakumar added.

The death of the inmate, 60-year-old Venkateswarappa from Andhra Pradesh, found dead in his cell early on December 4, had snowballed into a controversy following the revelation that his cell-mate had allegedly strangled him to death.

The body was subjected to a second post-mortem to confirm this. Venkateswarappa was taken into custody following court orders when he was roaming around in Kilimanoor and was admitted to the MHC on November 30.

Judicial probe sought

Meanwhile, protests and demands for further investigation arose from various quarters with the Kerala Congress and the All India Youth Federation (AIYF) staging separate sit-ins in front of the MHC on Saturday. Communist Party of India (CPI) State secretary Pannian Ravindran, inaugurating the Kerala Congress protest, demanded a judicial probe into the incident, more so because the victim had been admitted to the MHC following court orders. Kerala Congress secretary general George Sebastian also spoke.

Later, the AIYF alleged that murders within the mental health centres of the State were becoming regular and that authorities were trying to trivialise such incidents. Demanding that the superintendent of the centre be suspended, they blocked the superintendent’s office this morning. The protest was called off after the District Medical Officer reached the spot and promised action.