Tapas Singh tied with a chain at his house in South Dinajpur in November 2013. Picture by Mithun Roy
A block development officer recently re leased a mentally unsound youth from bondage, setting a sort of precedent in South Dinajpur.
Tapas Singh, 20, a resident of Tilna village in Kumarganj block of South Dinajpur, had been bound with a 30-foot-long metal chain for more than a week at his home by his family towards the end of November.
To ensure that Tapas could not flee, the chain was fastened to a wooden post.
His family members said that Tapas had started to behave “abnormally” about four years ago. At that time his parents tried to get him treated, as much as they were permitted by their financial capacity. Tapas’s father, Bikas, is a labourer.
His treatment stopped because of lack of money. Tapas reportedly became violent and often tried to bite others. When he bit a child his parents bound him with the chain.
Tapas has studied up to Class VI at a local high school. But when the symptoms of his mental illness began to show, he dropped out from his school.
“The mental illness began to show four years ago. He started to talk meaninglessly. We felt there was something wrong with him. We consulted a doctor, who treated him for some time. As we don’t have the financial ability, we stopped the treatment midway,” says Bikas Singh.
“Recently Tapas started to behave in a strange way. If anyone went close to him he would bite. Recently, he bit a child in the neighbourhood. So we were compelled to chain him,” he added.
But when the news reached the block administration, the BDO of Kumarganj, Bhaskar Majumdar, with members of the NGO Childline, rushed to the spot. The block medical officer of health of Kumarganj Puspendu Bhattacharya was also with him.
The BDO talked to the family and freed the youth. Then Majumdar contacted the superintendent of the district hospital of Balurghat and sent the youth by an ambulance to the mental ward of the hospital, where was treated till last week.
Tapas is staying with his family now but the district hospital has said it will appeal to the BDO that Tapas be taken to a better hospital for further treatment.
“It is against law and humanity that a person be chained like a beast. It cannot be supported at any cost. We told the parents of the youth that administration would take the responsibility of his treatment. The members of an NGO also helped us,” says Bhaskar Majumdar, BDO of Kumarganj.
“We have also told the villagers that people must contact the administration if they come across such incidents. We have decided to help the family by giving them some assistance every month,” says Majumdar.
The people thanked the BDO for his effort.
“The effort is no doubt praiseworthy. When we informed the BDO he took urgent action. The initiative should save the life of the youth,” said Mijanur Rahaman, a resident of Kumarganj.
“The BDO was like an angel,” says Arati, Tapas’s mother. “Who wants to bind their child with a chain? We were helpless as we could not afford money for treatment,” she added.
A villager said he had never seen a high-ranking government official behave so gently.
“We have never seen officers of higher level talking to us so gently, as the BDO did when he made us understand what should be done and what should not. We have started to believe that there are good men who are not just officers but our neighbours,” said Pulin Pahan, an octogenarian of the village.