A Delhi high court intervention and a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) has failed to improve the situation at Asha Kiran home for mentally challenged in Rohini, which has seen 11 deaths in the last two months.
Over 600 deaths have been reported in the home since 2001, which is run by the Delhi government’s social welfare department. According to the 2015 CAG report, the home is overcrowded with over 900 inmates living here against a capacity of 350.
“The need of these patients is huge and different from other people. There is a lack of both quality and quantity. It is not only the question of improving the facility of this particular home, the government should build more such facilities. Most of the inmates are ill when they are brought here. Many of them are taken to the hospital where they die,” said an NGO staff, who does not want to be named.
Former social welfare minister Kiran Walia, who was in-charge of the home under the Sheila Dikshit-government, said the main issue at these homes is that they are overcrowded. “The government needs a plan to decongest them because this ultimately leads to deterioration of services and efficiency. The government must explore ways to create more shelters to reduce pressure on Asha Kiran-like shelters. We built five day care shelters given the rising demand,” she said.
Even during Walia’s tenure as the minister, several deaths were reported in the shelter home. She also blamed society and said she had observed that people do not want to keep a mentally challenged person at home. “People leave their relatives on roads. There are certain unavoidable factors, which are reasons for frequent deaths. We need to understand that there are some serious health and mental conditions due to which one can’t survive beyond a point,” Walia said.
However, the government can’t be absolved of its duties; they need to go to root-cause. “The turmoil does not happen overnight. Instead of blaming others or issue notices to officials, they must act now,” the former Delhi minister said.
According to doctors, environment in the home plays a crucial role.
“A regular health check-up might help as people with mental disability might sometimes not be able to communicate about their physical problems. Also, the workers at the shelter have to keep an eye on whether there is self neglect like ignoring personal hygiene, feeding or taking care of medical needs,” said Dr Sameer Malhotra, director of mental health and behavioural sciences at Delhi’s Max Hospital.
“They would require lots of emotional support from the workers at the shelter, their family members or even from NGOs. And, it is very important to maintain their dignity and keep them gainfully employed in doing some activities to expend their energy,” he said.
THE STATE OF THE HOME
- Usually over 900 inmates live here against its capacity of 350
- Over 600 deaths have been reported in the home since 2001
- It has only 215 caring staff against a requirement of 502
Deaths each year
- 2005-06: 59
- 2006-07: 28
- 2007-08: 34
- 2008-09: 37
- 2009-10 : 46
- 2010-11: 11
- 2011-12: 13
- 2012-13 : 29
- 2013-14: 51
(Source: Public Interest Litigation in Delhi High Court)|