Panel had written to state regarding poor conditions of homes for vagrants


Sulagna Sengupta

Kolkata : Deaths of around 10 inmates in December this year at a government-run vagrant home at Kandi in Murshidabad could have been avoided if the state government had followed the recommendations sent by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) a year ago.

Despite a letter by the NHRC on 5 December 2012 regarding the appalling condition of vagrant homes, the state government did not follow the recommendations to improve the infrastructure of the state-run homes.

The letter, which was sent by the NHRC to the chief secretary on 5 December 2012, mentioned that inmates of government-run vagrant homes are forced to live in pitiable conditions. There were no doctors and the budget for medicine is “pittance”. On an average Re 1 is spent per day/per inmate on medicine which is “woefully inadequate”. Lack of drinking water facilities has resulted in acute cholera at the state-run homes.

In 2012, around 20 vagrants died at Dhakuria vagrant home due to lack of drinking water facilities. Even the ratio of inmates and attendants is irregular and at present in all the government-run vagrant homes the inmates:attendant ratio is 4:1. The NHRC had recommended that for each vagrant there should be one permanent attendant. The human rights commission in its letter mentioned that exceptionally high number of deaths were reported in 2012 at the vagrant homes. Around 90 vagrants died at Dhakuria state-run homes while 31 died at Mahalandi Lunatic Home at Murshidabad and the reason cited are poor medical facilities unhygienic conditions at homes and malnutrition.

A team from NHRC visited the Mahalandi Lunatic Home at Murshidabad and found that the clothing of the inmates was changed three days before the team’s visit. The toilets, dormitories and the surroundings of the state-run homes are unhygienic. It also stated that in most of the vagrant homes, mentally ill persons are being kept which is a violation of the Mental Health Act, 1987, and gross violation of human rights.

The recommendations include improving infrastructure of government-run homes and clean clothes and bedsheets for the inmates. There should be provisions for drinking water and ambulance facilities should be available at all state-run vagrant homes. Since most of the state-run homes do not have adequate staff, the panel recommended that managers of the state-run homes should be full-time officials. All state-run homes should appoint a specialist from v arious disciplines who will look after the mental and physical health of the inmates, it recommended.

The government should also provide adequate recreational facilities for the inmates and the homes should be clean and hygienic. The budget for medicine needs to be increased substantially, the panel reported. Mrs Sabitri Mitra, social welfare minister, said they are trying to revamp the infrastructure of the state-run homes soon.–deaths–Govt-sits-on-NHRC-report.html