Once again, with the death of two mentally ill patients from Ratanagari, who were shifted to Kolad Beggar’s home in Raigad, the question of whether society treats everyone equally, and with decency, arises.
Time and again, the government and society have failed to take into consideration the sufferings of the destitute. These communities remain marginalised and vulnerable.
Suryakant Badal and Siddhart Sawant were mentally ill patients who had undergone treatment and were declared ‘healthy and medically fit for discharge.’ From the Ratnagiri mental hospital, they were transferred to Kolad beggars’ home as part of the Maharashtra government’s rehabilitation plan.
It is not the first time that mentally ill patients have been rehabilitated to a home for ‘beggars’. Due to lack of separate facilities, often after being discharged they are sent to such homes.
In another article, I had spoken about how it is wrong to detain people who are found begging in such homes as if they are criminals. Again, I would like to point out the unfit conditions of such centres and would like to raise a question: why are those suffering from mental illnesses rehabilitated to these locations?
These places are clearly are only meant for the rehabilitation of people who are found begging. Can anyone who is homeless and/or mentally unsound be considered a ‘beggar’?
The fault lies in the unconstitutional Bombay Prevention of Begging Act of 1959, which ambiguously defines who can be considered as a ‘beggar’. This results in the arrests of not just people who beg, but also the homeless and mentally challenged people.
The conditions of the existing beggars’ home remain unfit for even the rehabilitation of mentally sound people who beg, thus, it is needless to say, that it is not appropriate for someone who is mentally ill.
The conditions of most of these homes are inhumane. The detained are not provided with basic amenities such as clean drinking water, food, bedding etc. In this particular case, as per the statement of the deputy superintendent of Ratnagiri mental hospital, the home didn’t have any cots and the inmates were made to sleep on the floor.
The home also lacked trained manpower to look after the mentally ill. Such conditions can undo the treatment that the patients receive at the hospital as it can have adverse effects on their mental health.
Again, I would like to emphasise on three points.