Activist says the figures reveal the injustice meted out to those who do not have any voice

 The death of 84 inmates in five State-run mental hospitals in West Bengal over the past three years has sparked strong criticism by human rights groups that raised questions here on Thursday of neglect and the callousness of authorities in administering minimum care to the inmates.

 The data about the deaths in the year 2010, 2011 and 2012 was recently made available following a query by a human rights activist under the Right to Information, Act (2005).

 Over 9 per cent of the total inmates (about 900 at present) in the five-State hospital, including 31 females, have died in the past three years.

  “The figures tell the story about the great injustice meted out to mental patients who do not have any voice. What is most surprising is that these deaths do not raise any concern among the authorities and are rarely probed,” Sabir Ahmed, the activist who had filed the application, told The Hindu .

Classic case of neglect

 “This is a classic case of years of neglect of the people who are in these institutions. Extreme neglect can be tantamount to cruelty and torture,” said Ratnaboli Ray, a mental health activist.

 While the reasons of the deaths of inmates vary from chronic renal failure to diabetes, activists such as Ms. Ray have said that the deaths cannot be ignored as they were due to ailments that can be treated and cured.

Stating that a couple of years ago, 13 inmates died at the State-run mental hospital in Berhampore died of diarrhoea, she said that none of the mental hospitals had a general physician to treat the patients.

Autopsy report not yet

Stating that deaths of inmates at State-run mental hospitals are not treated seriously Mr. Ahmed said that the RTI query revealed that post-mortem reports of six inmates at the Calcutta Pavlov Hospital, where the maximum number of deaths have occurred during the three-year period, are still awaited.

“There is an urgent need for close monitoring of these mental hospitals by members of civil society,” he said.

Attempts have also been made in the past to streamline the functioning of the metal hospitals.

The West Bengal Human Rights Commission as per a directive of the Calcutta High Court inspected these hospitals and submitted a report to the Court in September 2012.

The report also portrays the condition of State-run mental hospitals and suggests certain recommendations.

“Instead of confining them [the inmates] in the locked-up wards all the 24 hours like caged animals which is very depressing and badly affects their physical and mental health, they should be allowed to come out,” says the report referring to the Berhampore Mental Hospital.

  • 84 inmates in five hospitals died in the last 3 years

  • Activists say the patients died of curable ailments