A couple of months ago, members of the Mano Bandhu Foundation had found a middle-aged woman wandering aimlessly on the beach in the city. She was dressed shabbily, and her speech was incoherent. She looked mentally disturbed, and was not able to identify herself, or from which place she had came.
On checking her bag, they had identified her as an advocate in the Supreme Court. The volunteers then took her to a shelter home, and after treating her, she was reunited with her family.
“Such cases are on the rise. There is nothing much the government is doing for such people, especially for the mentally ill destitute,” said Magsaysay awardee Sandeep Pandey.
Mr. Sandeep was in the city on Thursday for an interaction with the media organised by the Mano Bandhu Foundation.
“The need of the hour is to have more shelter homes in cities, towns and districts, and a few should specifically cater to the mentally ill,” Mr. Sandeep said.
“There is a severe shortage of shelter homes. There has to be a proper system in place to treat and reunite patients with their family,” he observed.
He pointed out that government officials were not aware of the new law stipulating that a mentally sick destitute could be admitted to a government hospital for mental care, and that there was no need for a magisterial order, which was the case earlier.
“There are instances where the hospital authorities have refused to entertain such cases, and this has been putting the NGOs and voluntary organisations in a fix,” Mr. Sandeep observed.
Concurring with his view, Pragada Vasu of the Association for Urban and Tribal Development (AUTD) said as per the Supreme Court guidelines, there should be at least one shelter home for every one lakh population.
“Visakhapatnam, with a total population of about 40 lakh, has eight shelter homes. As per records, there are about 1,300 destitute persons in the city alone,” he said.
Mr. Sandeep pointed out that the government should not only address this issue immediately but also operate separate shelter homes for women.
‘No monitoring panels’
“As per the Mental Act of 2021, a monitoring committee should be set up in every district to oversee the rehabilitation of such persons and see that they get their due as per the Fundamental Rights. But so far, no such committees have been formed in the State,” said Chakradhar of LibTech India.
“In many cases, the persons are found in bad health condition. In some cases, they are found with maggots oozing out of external wounds. The quality of facilities in hospitals and shelter homes should be improved to handle such cases,” said Ramanand Satpathy, a doctor from the Government Hospital for Mental Care in the city.
Dr. Ramanand also pointed out that the Union Government should create a separate department on the lines of National Aids Control Organisation (NACO) to handle the issue.
B. Ramakrishna Raju of Mano Bandhu Foundation said a campaign had been launched in the State in October 2021, and in the last six months about 80 destitute persons were picked up and treated. “We are in a tie-up with Shraddha Foundation and LibTech India,” he said.
Dasaratha Ramaiah of Mano Bandhu was present.