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A child (representational image), Asha Kiran Website

New Delhi, Feb 7, 2017: The name ‘Asha Kiran’, or ‘ray of hope’ is a government-run shelter for women with mental disabilities which comes under the jurisdiction of Delhi’s social welfare Department. However, the combined negligence of the department and the successive regimes of Delhi towards this facility, has not just shamed the welfare management system but also raised a question over its credibility.

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The investigation report of Delhi Commission for Women reveals the heartbreaking reality of Asha Kiran which I believe has accorded another reason in building unfaithfulness of the people towards government-run welfare programs.

The team of DCW headed by its chief Swati Mittal, went to Asha Kiran for a surprise inspection, and what they witnessed there have taken places in their report as ‘extremely inhumane and unhygienic conditions‘ with ‘several instances of human rights violations on the part of the management’.

One of the most shocking findings of the investigation report is the ‘unreported deaths of 11 women in the past two months at the facility’. Yes, 11 women died in the facility and the concerned management didn’t care to file the report of their deaths.

While the investigation team finds it extremely difficult to understand that not just the management unreported the 11 deaths, but they also didn’t have any reason to support the cause of 11 unreported deaths. The deaths of 11 inmates cannot be a mystery, there have to be some reasons behind their deaths, or did they just succumb to the negligence of the management.

Apart from the unreported deaths, the commission has reported some shocking discoveries about the home. According to TOI, women inmates were made to line up naked before their baths in corridors with CCTV cameras. The CCTV footage was monitored by a male staffer, Maliwal said.

“I, along with other members of the commission, went for a surprise inspection of the home and ended up spending the night there. Among other things, we found the home was overcrowded, with up to four persons occupying one bed. Women were being made to remove their clothes in the open while lining up to take a bath. Shockingly, nude women were roaming around in the corridors even as there are CCTV cameras installed there which are being monitored by male staff,” Maliwal told the newspaper.

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The women were forced to live cheek by jowl because of the overcrowding of the facility. At this point, the only authority which could be accused here is the state government. But what followed next can’t be just blamed on the government alone, the management played equal role as of the government by not adhering to the fulfillment of their obligations.

In addition to the extreme overcrowding of the facility, the children were being made to sleep on the floor without mattresses despite the cold winter. When the DCW asked the staffers about this idiocy, they said this was because they were wetting their beds.

The DCW mentioned the sanitation and hygienic conditions of the facility as utterly deplorable. Toilets, as well as some corridors, were covered in urine, excreta and menstrual blood. Even the rooms reeked of urine as patients relieved themselves and weren’t cleaned, The Times of India report said.

As they weren’t being provided with wheelchairs, several patients with physical disabilities had to crawl up to the toilets in order to relieve themselves.
The report also reveals a shocking incident where a patient was found massaging the legs of a staffer, According to the report, the patients were also made to do chores, including personal work for the staffers.

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The DCW report also mentions the acuteness of medical care and manpower in the facility, with just one ‘house aunty’ was deployed to care for more than 150 patients. The facility provides no clinical psychologist to the patients and has just one psychiatrist, who visits for several twice in a week. There are several vacant positions for doctors in the facility.

The DCW has sent a notice to the Social Welfare Secretary demanding an answer within 3 days regarding the discrepancies in the ‘Asha Kiran’.

According to a reply of an RTI to The Indian Express in 2015, the death toll at the facility has increased by 76% from 2013. According to Hindustan Times, over 600 deaths have been reported at the facility since 2001. According to a comptroller and auditor general report in 2015, 900 patients were living at the facility meant for 350.

The situation at Asha Kiran is becoming volatile day by day and demands the incumbent government to respond swiftly on this matter. The justice should be brought to the patients who have suffered in the past and yet suffering this apathy.

Let’s hope the government answers the unheard plight of the patients at the Asha Kiran, and many more institutions alike.

prepared by Ashish Srivastava of NewsGram, Twitter @PhulRetard


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