The remains of Paikpara Rajbati. (Sanat Kumar Sinha)
Another one bites the dust. The last remains of Paikpara Rajbati on BT Road are finally being disposed of.
In February 2005, a section of this sprawling mansion, which is still easily identifiable as it is next to the Great Trigonometrical Survey tower, was demolished. An apartment block named Om Enclave came up soon afterwards at 59/2 BT Road.
Now the portion behind it — a giant pile of sooty brick and mortar — is being cleaned out by an army of demolition men. In the mid-1960s, when the Sinha family was forced to move to Lansdowne Road during the Naxalite movement, it became a police barracks. A part of it had been taken over by squatters and it became derelict.
Adjacent to the shattered garage of state buses the open space in front of it was used to park the skeletons of vehicles. The Rajbati once had 350 rooms and grand musical soirees used to be held there. But it looked like a haunted house thereafter. Now it will be lost without a trace.
Niti Chowdhury was once a resident patient at Lumbini Park Mental Hospital. For that alone, she had to struggle for months to open an account in a nationalised bank, years after being declared “fit” and released from the hospital.
This posed a huge problem for Niti as she had inherited money from the sale of her ancestral property, which few mental patients do.
“Life remains miserable for a mental patient even after being certified fit by doctors. It took Niti a long time to get a PAN card as the only permanent address she had for a long time was of the mental hospital’s. Even after she got it, a branch of a nationalised bank refused to let her open a savings account. The officials claimed she was not fit to operate an account though we had submitted a medical certificate,” said Ratnaboli Ray, a mental rights activist.
The manager of the branch admitted that Niti had been turned away. “She had a no-frills account in our branch, where a small amount could be deposited. But we could not open a savings account in her name as we had no clue how her mental state was. Besides a lot of relevant documents were missing and her signature was not matching,” he said.
Not ready to accept defeat, Niti approached several other banks. Finally, the Nagerbazar branch of State Bank of India allowed her to open an account. “She seemed perfectly normal when we interviewed her, so we had no grounds for refusing her,” said Tapan Chakraborty, the manager of the SBI branch.
“According to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability, people with psycho-social disability have full legal capacity. India ratified the convention three years ago. If opening a bank account involves so much harassment for a former mental patient, it is apparent that the world is not ready to accept them in the mainstream,” said Ray.
(Contributed by Soumitra Das and Chandreyee Ghose)