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Mental centre inmates live hand to mouth

Krishnadas Rajagopal
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Ration allocation cut after hospital was classified as APL

DYFI activists gherao the superintendent of Government Mental Health Centre in Kozhikode on Wednesday in protest against the cut down of ration to the inmates.— Photo: K. Ragesh
DYFI activists gherao the superintendent of Government Mental Health Centre in Kozhikode on Wednesday in protest against the cut down of ration to the inmates.— Photo: K. Ragesh

: The 676 inmates of the Government Mental Health Centre here have been living hand to mouth. Food stock has run out. Vegetables are a luxury, and the local Triveni store has stopped giving food on credit to the hospital.

At the crux of the problem, according to the centre’s medical superintendent Ravi Kumar, is a Government Order issued last month.

“As per the order, the hospital has been included in the Above Poverty Line category. The monthly quota of rice supplied directly through the Civil Supplies Department to the hospital has been slashed from 7,500 kg to 2,500 kg a month. Likewise, the monthly wheat ration has been cut from 3,000 kg to 700 kg. So, inmates have been surviving on this one-third ration,” Dr. Kumar said on Wednesday.

The inmates are given four meals a day. The average inmate population can go up to 900, but is never less than 600, hospital sources said.

The insecure food situation caused a furore on the hospital premises on Wednesday with activists of the Democratic Youth Federation of India staging a protest. Officials from the district administration and the Health Department arrived at the hospital in a bid to amicably settle the issue with the agitators.

“As a temporary measure, the District Medical Officer (DMO) has allotted Rs.3 lakh to the hospital to buy provisions for a week,” the hospital staff said.

District Medical Officer P.K. Mohanan said the drastic cut in monthly food rations had been implemented across major government-run hospitals and jails in the State.

“The government learnt that hospitals were using only 52 to 53 per cent of their annual funds. So, it was decided that instead of letting the funds lapse, the hospitals can utilise this money to buy food rations at subsidised rates from Civil Supplies outlets. Consequently, the direct supply of rations was cut,” the DMO said.

Mr. Mohanan said requests had already been made to withdraw this measure.

The living conditions of the inmates at the mental health centre was earlier a point of controversy.

In a Right to Information (RTI) application filed by The Hindu , the mental health centre’s Public Information Officer (PIO) had, in a reply dated December 10, 2012, admitted that mentally challenged and homeless persons were lodged in the same ward as convicted prisoners and undertrial detainees.

The RTI request was a 20-point questionnaire seeking information on the condition, welfare, and treatment of inmates. The RTI response had also revealed that there are two forensic wards at the centre — Ward 3 for men and Ward 5 for women. In Ward 5, there are six convicted prisoners and six undertrial detainees. The male forensic ward houses five convicted prisoners and 49 undertrial detainees.

The RTI reply revealed that in spite the presence of 11 convicted prisoners, both male and female in the two forensic wards at the centre, no jail department personnel had been posted.

Besides, there is only one Community Police Officer on duty at the male forensic ward, and no police security for the female forensic ward. Questions on facilities at the forensic wards showed that the male ward has 25 “single-bedded rooms” and three dormitories. Five inmates are packed in each room, while 27 others are kept in three dormitories, the RTI reply quoted a census taken.

There are 15 cots, of which nine are made of concrete, and 27 beds in the male ward. The ward has three separate bathrooms and 28 bath-attached toilets. In the female forensic ward, there are 20 single rooms with four to five patients occupying asingle room. There are 45 cots and 16 beds. Concrete cots are available in single rooms.

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