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50 ‘illegal’ rehabs in Punjab, health department caught napping

The harrowing tales of abuse and maltreatment wherein many inmates claimed to have been kept as bonded labourers has put a big question mark on the department’s claims of keeping a close eye on such centres.

punjab Updated: Oct 19, 2018 09:43 IST
Ravinder Vasudeva
Ravinder Vasudeva
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
illegal’ rehabs in Punjab,Punjab,health department
(Represenatative image )

At least 50 illegally run private rehabilitation centres are operating in Punjab, revealed a fresh internal assessment by the state health department’s field staff in the wake of a raid on a facility in Rupnagar district’s Chamkaur Sahib where more than 200 addicts were found to be held captive.

The harrowing tales of abuse and maltreatment wherein many inmates claimed to have been kept as bonded labourers has put a big question mark on the department’s claims of keeping a close eye on such centres.

The department has not been able to act against these centres despite a number of complaints of captivity, violence, chaining of addicts and overcharging. The state has nearly 100 private drug de-addiction centres and over 90 rehabilitation centres.

In the past one year, only five such centres have been raided by the health department where serious violation of human rights was reported. All of them were shut down. On Thursday, the department wrote to all the civil surgeons to carry out inspections at such centres.

Officials-centre owner Nexus

It’s not for the first time that such inspections have been ordered by the health department. Earlier too, such instructions were passed by health minister Brahm Mohindra while chairing the meetings with district health officials. These centres make huge profits as there is no check on the fees they charge. They also bribe the health department’s ground staff, thus ensuring their business is not disrupted.

“Such is the scenario that in a recent case, when our team went to raid a rehabilitation centre at Mohali on the orders of the health minister, the driver of a district official tipped the centre owner who shifted 40 inmates to other place by the time we reached there,” a senior official said.

These centres charge around Rs 30,000-40,000 from an addict every month in the name of providing better facilities than the government-run centres.

A rehabilitation centre houses to 50-100 inmates. Well-to-do families, who don’t want to send their addict wards to government rehabilitation centres, prefer the private ones.

Minister blames district authorities

Health minister Mohindra said, “The district authorities are not paying attention to the seriousness of the matter. These centres are mushrooming because of the shelter provided to them by our staff. I have instructed the district administrations to carry out raids and report the matter to me.”

The department by November will come up with the ‘Mental Healthcare Act’ which will have provision of stricter punishment against the illegal practice.

First Published: Oct 19, 2018 09:21 IST