Staff Reporter

Plans to file a public interest litigation for civil intervention

A day-long protest will be held on January 16, says Vandana Gopikumar

“The staff and doctors at the hospital do not want to continue associating with The Banyan”

CHENNAI: The Banyan, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) working with persons with mental illness, has alleged that patients at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) in Chennai were being given a raw deal.

Addressing reporters on Wednesday, Banyan founder Vandana Gopikumar said that patients were not being taken care of properly, and that basic human rights were being violated in the institute.

Patients who were caught escaping from the institute were brutally beaten up, she alleged. The basic hygiene and clothing needs of patients were neglected.

The IMH had refused to renew the Memorandum of Understanding signed by the Commissioner of Chennai Police, Director of the IMH and the Founder Trustee of Banyan, she said. “We only ask that at least other NGOs be allowed to intervene.”

Anuradha (name changed), a patient from Allahabad, who escaped from the hospital, said that the patients were locked up most of the times and was let out only during meals.

“There is only one toilet for about 80 patients. The attendants and nurses beat patients up if they cry,” she alleged. Rekha (name changed), a patient who was at the IMH for about nine months, said that patients were allowed to bathe only once in 3 or 4 days.

Ms. Gopikumar said that friends of The Banyan had planned to file a public interest litigation asking that civil society intervention continue at the IMH. She also said that a day-long protest would be held on January 16.

“Finding fault”

When contacted, IMH Director R. Satianathan, said, “As they have suddenly been finding fault with the institute, we feel it may not be congenial for them to work with us. The staff, students and doctors at the hospital do not want to continue associating with them,” he said.

“The number of patients who were discharged has come down ever since the NGO has come and there have been complaints against some of the volunteers of The Banyan,” he said.