National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled
44, Ashoka Road, New Delhi 110 001
Tel. 23369598; 9868768543
The death of an inmate of the Pavlov Hospital, Kolkata raises serious concern about the conditions in this and other mental hospitals and institutions throughout the country.
The pathetic conditions in which these institutions are maintained without regard to hygiene, sanitation, inadequate general health facilities, apart from sexual abuse, calls for setting up of adequate monitoring mechanisms. Such oversight mechanisms were also contained in the recommendations made by the Verma Committee in its report on amendments to criminal laws. However, governments has been wanting in this respect.
The report by the Human Rights Watch released on December 3, 2014 while drawing attention to the deplorable conditions in such institutions also recommends the setting up of such monitoring mechanisms at various levels.
In the light of this, the NPRD once again reiterates its demand for the setting up of such oversight mechanisms. The NPRD has written to the Minister of Health & Family Welfare and the Minister of Social Justice & Empowerment (Department of Disability Affairs) urging that immediate steps be taken in this regard. The letter is being released herewith.
Shri Jagat Prakash Nadda
Minister for Health & Family Welfare
Nirman Bhawan, C-Wing
New Delhi 110 001
Yesterday we received the news of the death of an inmate of the Kolkata Pavlov Mental Hospital, Smt. Kamala Majumdar. Kamla Majumder was undergoing treatment for mental illness and was on the verge of being discharged, before being taken to the National Medical Hospital for treatment of multiple injuries, where she died.
Even if we go by the hospital’s explanation that the injuries suffered by Kamla were on account of infighting among the inmates, the question arises as to why the staff who were supposed to be looking after them failed to intervene and stop the fight.
This is not the first such an incident has happened at Pavlov. The hospital has been in the news on earlier occasions also owing to the maltreatment of patients admitted including sexual abuse. The hospital administration has been indicted by none other than the Human Rights Commission. The Report submitted by Sri Damodar Sarangi, Special Rapporteur (East Zone-1), NHRC after his visit to the hospital on December 1 & 2, 2008 notes that “The general conditions of the hospital appeared to be quite gloomy. Absence of work culture was evident.” Shri Damodar during the course of his visit found that some male patients were not clothed at all. There have also been reports of women too at times moving around the ward completely naked.
The Pavlov incident draws attention to the wider issue of monitoring of hospitals and institutions for the mentally ill run both by the government and others where sexual abuses are rampant. This was one of the suggestions that our organisation had made in our submissions to the Verma Committee that was constituted to go into the issue of amendments to criminal laws following the Delhi gang-rape. Even while the Committee, had incorporated this in its recommendations, the government has been wanting in putting in place a mechanism to monitor such institutions, especially where women are lodged in large numbers.
In its report “Abuses against women and girls with psychosocial or intellectual disabilities in Institutions in India” released on December 3, 2014, the Human Rights Watch brings to light the abysmal living conditions including overcrowding, lack of hygiene, and inadequate general health facilities apart from the constant risk of physical and sexual violence in such hospital and facilities. The report also recommends that “mental hospitals and residential care institutions for persons with psychosocial disabilities are regularly monitored”.
In the light of the increasing number of such incidents, it is high time that such oversight mechanisms, monitoring and regulatory authorities be established at the district level consisting of activists and specialists from the district who will have visiting rights and access to these places for regular check ups. Periodic inspection of these institutions by the authorities so established should be made mandatory.
It also needs to be underlined that policy and legal measures to prevent and reduce violence against women with disabilities and shield them against such abuses by themselves are not enough. Necessary legal aid/help to bring the perpetrators of such crime to justice has to be provided. Victims of such crimes have to be provided with adequate and appropriate counselling facilities. Rehabilitation of such victims is also paramount.
We request you to please initiate the process immediately.