'Inhuman and Deplorable Conditions' at Govt-Run Mental Healthcare Institutions: NHRC

Their condition, the Commission says, "depict(s) a very pathetic handling by the different stakeholders".

New Delhi: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has come down heavily on all the government-run mental healthcare institutions in India, saying that they are in “inhuman and deplorable conditions”. Their condition, the Commission says, “depict(s) a very pathetic handling by the different stakeholders”.

Special rapporteurs had recently conducted visits to all 46 such institutions, and the full NHRC had visited four of them in Gwalior, Agra and Ranchi to find out whether the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 is being implemented well.

One of the most worrying facts, according to the NHRC, was that patients were being kept in these institutions even after they were better, and no efforts were taken to reunite them with their families or reintegrate them in society. Section 19 of the Mental Healthcare Act states that if a mentally ill person has been abandoned by their family, the government should provide appropriate support including legal aid to fight for their right to live in the family home, but the NHRC found that this is not being followed.

“…it is a travesty that provisions of the statute have failed to ignite the consciousness of the appropriate Government(s) to provide adequate support to such vulnerable persons who are suffering from mental illness. The more aggravating factor is that even after the recovery of mental illness, they are not being allowed to reunite or regrouped with the society, family for the purpose of community living which is not only unconstitutional in view of Article 21 of the Constitution but also it is a failure of the State Government(s) to discharge the obligation under various international Covenants relating to rights of persons with disabilities which have been ratified by India,” the NHRC has said.

It is “very unfortunate”, the NHRC noted, that state authorities have ignored several rules and provisions relating to these institutions, which would have made the lives of those staying in them better.