May 31: City police have launched a drive to rescue mentally ill people roaming the streets and admit them to hospitals for proper treatment, following instructions from the Assam Human Rights Commission in February.
The senior superintendent of police (city), Apurba Jiban Baruah, today told The Telegraph that a drive has been launched to rescue pavement dwellers in the city, and those found mentally ill by doctors are being admitted to Gauhati Medical College and Hospital (GMCH) for proper treatment.
“A drive has been launched under which our personnel are rescuing people either sitting on the pavements or wandering in the streets. We take them to hospitals for check-ups and those who are found mentally ill are admitted for proper treatment. Those who are found normal are taken to shelter homes run by social welfare department. The drive is done in the presence of a magistrate,” Baruah said.
Though Baruah said the drive was part of their social activities, another police officer said the drive has been launched following an instruction from the higher-up, based on the order issued by the rights panel in February.
“According to the provisions in the Mental Health Act, 1987, police stations have been asked to carry out a drive in their respective areas and make sure that no person is found precariously wandering and is incapable of taking care of oneself,” the officer said.
The AHRC in February had asked the state government and the Assam police to start the drive within six months, based on a complaint submitted by two city-based activists — Pabitra Hazarika and J.P. Gogoi.
Hazarika works in Human Rights Law Network, an NGO, while Gogoi belongs to disability law unit of Sishu Sarothi, another NGO working for the people in need of special care.
Both had written a letter to director-general of Assam police in July 2010 and the submitted a copy to AHRC and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) complaining that the police personnel here were not following the provisions of Mental Health Act, 1987, and as a result many mentally ill people were moving on city streets without proper care and treatment.
The complainants in their letter stated that they had approached the officer-in-charge of some police stations in the city to take the mentally ill people to hospitals.
However, they refused to do so even as officer-in-charge of a police station have been vested with the statutory duty to take such mentally ill destitute persons into protective custody under Section 23 of the Mental Health Act, 1987, and follow consequent procedures laid down under Section 25 of the act.
“Following our complaint, the NHRC had referred the matter to AHRC, which on February 16 this year had issued an order to the state government and the police to take measures within six months and make sure that police stations comply with the provisions of Section 23 of the Mental Health Act, 1987. We want that the mentally ill are taken care of properly and is provided proper medical support,” Hazarika said.