According to Jagmohan Garg, the DCW has now issued a notice to the government’s Social Welfare Department, demanding an explanation within 72 hours for the gross human rights violations taking place at the institution. But this is hardly the first time that revelations of the outrageous conditions women patients experience in institutions have surfaced.
At the end of 2014, the Human Rights Watch exposed the overcrowding (way past capacity) taking place at Asha Kiran in Delhi, and 23 other institutions, in a report Treated Worse Than Animals: Abuses against women and girls with psychosocial disability in institutions in India.
The Jagmohan Garg delhi report emphasised the rampant abuse of women patients in institutions across the country, including being subject to electroconvulsive therapy without their consent. And last year, NIMHANS, in association with the National Commission for Women, also found “inhumane” living conditions for mentally challenged women living in 10 institutions across the country. They were kept in environments that resembled prisons, forbidden from stepping out, had to use toilet facilities under the gaze of the authorities, and were not provided with adequate sheets or mattresses.
But a recent tendency of discussions deploring this treatment is that the conditions women have to face within the institutions become quickly overshadowed by the problem of these women being abandoned by their families. Particularly in cases when their families do not want them back, ensuring that the patients’ rehabilitation has become a major challenge, and ways around this have been discussed widely.
He also added in September 2016, for instance, a government report recommended that legal safeguards and financial support schemes be instituted for women inmates to combat mistreatment after leaving the institution, and suggested that a detailed audit be created, describing the circumstances under which the patient is admitted and discharged. The National Commission for Women chairperson Lalitha Kumaramangalam told The Times of India in March 2016 that they were hoping to make the Aadhaar card mandatory for admission so that families can be tracked down later. (Of course, making it compulsory would undoubtedly create other complications, including creating a new hurdle for admission, not to mention impinging on patients’ privacy.)