The death of 286 inmates of the Beggars' Rehabilitation Centre over a period of eight months under mysterious circumstances, which came to light in August this year, may have shook the conscience of the city and compelled the Social Welfare Department to improve the physical conditions at the home.
But what is happening with the criminal investigation into the case is an altogether different story.
Though Social Welfare Minister A. Narayanaswamy had announced in October that the case will be handed over to Criminal Investigation Department (CID), the case is yet to reach them.
Director-General of Police (CID), D.V. Guruprasad, told The Hindu on Monday the case has not been handed over to them.
File with CM
According to sources, the file is still lying with the Chief Minister's office. Political uncertainty since then seems to have pushed this important issue into insignificance.
Surprisingly, Mr. Narayanaswamy seemed unaware of this when contacted by The Hindu . He said the inquiry had been handed over but when told it was pending clearance, he said: “The decision was taken in the presence of all high authorities, including the Chief Minister. I will trace the file right away.”
The announcement of the CID inquiry was made following the report by S. Selvakumar, Project Administrator of Karnataka Health System Development and Reforms Project, in October. It revealed gross violations ranging from financial irregularities, inefficient administration, medical negligence and inhuman attitude of the staff.
This further corroborated what was revealed in newspaper reports in August: the heartless conditions in which the inmates lived, woeful lack of medical help with no more than one doctor available during day, and the flagrant manner in which all mandatory legal procedures and rules were thrown to the wind every step of the way.
No trace of bodies
The most shocking part of Mr. Selvakumar's report was this: Not only did several deaths occur under unexplained circumstances, but several bodies simply disappeared. In this context, Mr. Selvakumar's report points to the suspicion that, as part of a large racket, vital organs could have been extracted and sold illegally.
Mr. Selvakumar, who is also the Mission Director of National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), has recommended a detailed investigation into reports of illegal extraction and sale of organs from the dead beggars' bodies.
Many heads rolled following the deaths, including that of the then Social Welfare Minister D. Sudhakar. Four officials directly involved with the maintenance of the home were suspended and the entire staff changed.
Cooking food at the centre was stopped and outsourced to ISKCON. More doctors were deputed to take care of the inmates. The number of inmates at the home today stands at 300, as against 1,000 in August.