For mentally challenged persons abandoned at Erwadi Darga
High Court also probes possibility
a qualified doctor
MADURAI: The Madras High Court on Wednesday sought the State government’s opinion on establishing a rehabilitation centre for scores of mentally challenged persons abandoned at the Erwadi Darga in Ramanathapuram district in the hope of faith healing.
Passing interim orders on a public interest litigation petition filed before the Madurai Bench, Justices Prafulla Kumar Misra and P. Murgesen directed the Special Government Pleader to also obtain instructions on the possibility of deputing a qualified doctor once a week to visit the rehabilitation centre.
The SGP was further ordered to ascertain the feasibility of constituting a committee headed by the Collector to supervise the working of the rehabilitation centre, if and when it is established, without interfering with the religious affairs and other activities of the Darga.
The Judges also wanted to know whether the government could provide certain services such as electricity and water supply at nominal costs.
Stating that the opinion on the issues should be expressed by April 1, they said: “It is hoped that no further time will be sought for by the respondents (government officials).” In its counter affidavit, the Darga Haqdar Committee expressed its willingness to construct the rehabilitation centre subject to government approval.
It pointed out that the government had ordered the closure of all private asylums/curing centres around the Darga following a major fire accident in which 28 mentally ill persons were charred to death on August 6, 2001.
V. Shahul Riyas, president of the Haqdar Youth Committee, had filed the PIL petition last year claiming that the mentally challenged were lying on roadsides, chained to trees and lampposts, after the closure of the private asylums.
Ramanthapuram Principal District Judge J. V. Raj, who inspected the Darga as directed by the court, said the mentally challenged were being treated worse than animals. “The mentally ill were prone to many onslaughts… The whole area is dirty and unhygienic and they are prone to all communicable diseases. It is pathetic to see their condition. Nobody is there to take care of them,” he said in his report filed before the Bench in January.