While the condition of the Beggars' Rehabilitation Centre inmates is uniformly pathetic, the almost total absence of health and hygiene has proved particularly costly for the 494 women here.

Shockingly, the centre has only one male doctor for the 2,547 inmates, who is assisted by a nurse, a pharmacist and a lab technician. (In the last two days, many inmates have fled the facility.)

Gynaecological infections are endemic here, a direct result of the abysmal hygienic conditions. A number of the inmates are in no position to take care of their personal hygiene because they are mentally ill.

Gayatri, in her late 30s, is unaware she is going through her menstrual cycle though she is not completely mentally retarded.

On the street

“She has been on the street all her life and doesn't know about menstruation. Although we tell her to take precautions during that period, she is not bothered,” said Fatima Bi, her fellow inmate who seems to be the most knowledgeable among the lot.

G. Harimurthy, the centre's doctor, said the women are examined regularly by the nurse and treated for infections. “Those who need further treatment are referred to other government hospitals in the city,” he said.

The older lot suffer from gynaecological problems such as prolapsed uterus. “We got 29 operated for uterine prolapse in Victoria Hospital two months ago,” he said.

A third suffer from anaemia, mental illnesses, physical disabilities, diabetes or HIV/AIDS, or are victims of sexual and substance abuse. Most suffer from menorrhagia, amenorrhoea and weakness, Dr. Harimurthy said.

A team from NIMHANS visits some 350 inmates suffering from mental ailments, every first and third Thursday of the month, he said.

The 494 women have just four women warders and two ayahs, which makes caretaking a hopeless task.

Rekha, a 20-year-old who landed here after she ran away from her home in Shimoga, said the dormitory stinks because of the total lack of hygiene.

The centre's hospital, which is managed by Karuna Trust run by H. Sudarshan, is in dire need of at least three more doctors, including a gynaecologist, and four more nurses.

Low salary

“I have raised this issue during several meetings with the Central Relief Committee chairperson C.N. Manje Gowda.

Although the committee decided to appoint a doctor, there are no takers because the salary is Rs. 10,000 a month,” Dr. Harimurthy said.

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