Why Are The Mentally Ill Rehabilitated To Homes For ‘Beggars’ In Maharashtra?

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.

It is not the first time that mentally ill patients have been rehabilitated to a home for ‘beggars’. Representational image.

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.

  • First, the current law should be repealed and be replaced with a law which rehabilitates the people found begging, without labelling them as criminals.
  • Second, there is a dire need to improve the infrastructural conditions of these homes.
  • Third, the government should separately provide adequate facilities for the care and rehabilitation of the mentally ill persons.
Similar Posts

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below