Saturday, August 11, 2001, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Mentally ill in fetters at Pingalwara
Rashmi Talwar

Amritsar, August 10
Infringing on the fundamental right of mentally ill persons, the local Pingalwara orphanage continues to carry on the barbaric practice of chaining some of its mentally challenged inmates, housed in its institute since years, seemingly oblivious of the tragedy of 30 such chained persons who were charred to death in a fire in Tamil Nadu recently.

Under the Government of India’s Mental Health Act, 1987, chapter 8 Sec 81 (1), “no mentally ill person shall be subjected during treatment to any indignity (whether physical or mental) or cruelty.” This includes “chaining”, reacts Dr B.L. Goel, Director of Vidya Sagar Government Mental Hospital, when told about the practice carrying on at Pingalwara, the institute, that seeks treatment for a majority of its 550 mentally challenged persons from this government mental hospital.

Some of these imbalanced persons are even chained in the trauma vans that carry them to and fro from Pingalwara to the hospital as was witnessed by this correspondent this morning.

Six patients from the main branch of Pingalwara remain chained out of a total of 230 mentally unstable persons as admitted by Pingalwara in-charge S.S. Rahi. More than 17 other patients remain in fetters at Mata Mehtab Kaur Ward for Women and Bhai Piara Singh Ward for Men affiliated to and situated near Pingalwara.

While Jasbir Kaur, warden in-charge of the men’s ward, refused to let this correspondent visit the wards on alleged instructions from Mr Baljit S. Maan, Chief Administrator of the institute as claimed by her, later she divulged that six patients were kept chained in the men’s ward. One of them, named Sunil, has been in shackles since the past 10 years, revealed attendants of the ward and other patients. He was brought here when he had passed out of class X and is now more than 35 years old.

However, Mr Naib Singh, warden in-charge of the women’s ward, was more forthcoming and revealed that out of the total of 188 women inmates eight of those who are most violent are being kept manacled. It is not possible to keep a 24-hour vigil on such violent patients who are a danger not only to others but more to themselves, he said. Sunil bites anyone who disturbs him from his reveries of film actress Hema Malini, who, he says, is waiting for him to eat ‘khichdi’ at his Namak Mandi residence. Mentally deranged Kavita has broken her own wrist during a temper tantrum and Kashmiro tries to escape to her “daughter” every time she is left free.

Most of them remain chained even while taking meals or sleeping and are escorted every time they need to visit the toilet or take a bath, say jail staff. “We do not have enough staff to keep round-the-clock vigil for 550 such inmates who seek shelter here and are mostly shunned as the dregs of society in most inhuman condition”, says Mr Rahi.

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