C. Jaishankar

Still many unauthorised homes are run for the mentally ill

RAMANATHAPURAM: The recent fire tragedy at Erwadi near here that claimed six lives, including two mentally ill patients, has once again exposed the existences of “unsafe houses” in the coastal town.

The Government, which took a series of initiatives to regularise private homes for mentally ill patients after the 2001 tragedy that claimed 28 lives of mentally affected persons, closed all private homes found at Erwadi and other places. It came out with strong guidelines for opening such homes in the State.

Though there is no officially permitted home for the mentally challenged persons at Erwadi, a few people run “special houses” for them, causing problems for the neighbours.

Even after the tragedy, Erwadi still attracts a large number of pilgrims including psychiatric patients. It is not all of them return home. At least 10 to 15 per cent of the patients prefer to stay in Erwadi to seek the ‘divine intervention’ to cure their ailments. A large number of houses available in the town come to their rescue. Some of the houses function as virtual homes for the mentally ill .

“A lot of patients have been staying in many houses, some of them with their family members. Many roam around the town. No body can predict when they will turn violent. It really poses problems to the local citizens,” said S. Syed Ibrahim (38) of Erwadi.

Last Sunday’s incident in which a mentally affected women set fire on a family living in a line house was an outcome of the uncontrollable patients.

S. Halil Rahmad (40) says, “it is not possible to prevent those coming to seek relief. The authorities rarely took action to arrest patients wandering in the town. There are no proper facilities and doctors for psychiatric patients in the nearby hospitals.”

S. Mohamed Amir Hamsa, president, Dargha Haqdar Management Committee, said the construction of an official home under the control of Collector could solve the problem to an extent. The committee was ready to provide land and fund for this.

Collector R. Kirlosh Kumar told The Hindu that 28 mentally ill patients were arrested. Surprise raids would be conducted to find out whether anyone running homes for them.