NEW DELHI: The lone Delhi government run Asha Kiran Complex in Rohini to provide refuge to mentally retarded men, women and children has seen as many as 123 deaths in its six homes between 2004 and now.
The Delhi government's department of women and child development and social welfare department's replies to various RTI applications filed by NGO Pratidhi reveal figures that point towards a high death rate in the Asha Kiran Complex. The complex is known to be overcrowded and an inspection by a team of the Public Grievances Commission earlier this year too observed in its report that a lot is lacking, which needs to be set right with utmost urgency in the Complex.
The Asha Kiran Complex is made up of six institutions. These include Home for Mentally Retarded Children (HMRP-Ch) , Home for mentally retarded Adults (HMRP-A), School and Home for Mentally Retarded Children (SHMR-Ch), School and Home for Mentally Retarded Adults (SHMR-A), Institution for Severe and Profoundly Mentally Retarded Children (ISPMR-Ch) and Institution for Severe and Profoundly Mentally Retarded Adults (ISPMR-A).
Data given out in response to an RTI application filed by NGO Pratidhi shows that in HMRP-Ch, meant for boys, only seven children died in 2004, 14 in 2005, five in 2006, six in 2007 and two upto February this year. This means that a total of 34 boys died in the Home over the last four years.
In the Home for Mentally Retarded persons, where only adult males are kept, a total of 42 inmates have died between 2004 and February 2008. In 2004 there were two deaths, in 2005 the number shot upto 22, 14 persons died in 2006 and two in 2007. Until February 2008, two deaths were reported.
In the School and Home for Mentally Retarded Children, meant for girls, only in all there have been 13 deaths between 2004 and 2007. In SHMR for adult women there have been 12 deaths between 2004-07. In case of ISPMR for children and ISPMR for adults, only females are given refuge. Data provided for the year 2006 and 2007 reflects 22 deaths, with 11 inmates having died in both homes.
While giving details of the death cases in ISPMR and SHMR in the reply filed in response to one of the RTI applications by Pratidhi, the social welfare department tries to steer clear of the issue, stating, "The persons admitted in the institutions are either abandoned or lost. They are picked up from the roadside or found deserted in hospitals and various religious or public places. Most of the times they come with various infections and also have the signs of violence, maltreatment and neglect. These persons have limited intelligence and as part of their brain's capacity is disabled their nervous system is also weak, hence their capacity to feel and explain their discomfort or illness is less compared to a normal person. Hence, often, by the time the symptoms are visible, much of the damage is already done."
While pointing that Asha Kiran Complex needs attention, Raj Mangal Prasad of Pratidhi says that even other Homes for children, adults and beggars are not following norms.
The deaths at Rohini's Asha Kiran complex have finally woken up the Delhi government from its slumber.
An embarrassed Mangat Ram Singhal, Delhi's social welfare minister, has announced some measures to improve the condition of mental home inmates.
But corruption in the government's social welfare department ( SWD), which runs the home for the mentally challenged, runs deep.
The rot had set in long ago.
The authorities concerned were aware of it. But beyond a few cosmetic measures, they did not take any corrective steps.
In May 2008, a major procurement scam was unearthed.
Information provided on an RTI application filed by Raj Mangal Prasad and his NGO Pratidhi revealed that SWD officials had swindled at least Rs 13 lakh meant for the inmates.
Most of the money meant for buying necessary items for the inmates was diverted. Records showed strange purchases, such as female undergarments for the male inmates.
Necessary items such as toiletries, vests and slippers were shown to have been bought at twice or thrice the market price. Apart from such inflated expenses shown in the files, theft and pilferage of goods meant for the inmates staff are common at Asha Kiran and other SWD- run centres.
The problem has become so serious that Singhal has proposed to install CCTV cameras at all SWD centres at various locations such as gates, storerooms and kitchens. The CCTV footage would be monitored at a proposed control room inside the ministry, an official said.
The move came after Mail Today reported on Tuesday about the systemic apathy plaguing Asha Kiran, where 13 inmates have died within a month.
Sources said the minister was briefed about the " lackadaisical state of affairs", much to the annoyance of many senior SWD officials.
"We have told them ( the ministry) not to expect much from us when there is no trained staff. We're managing with untrained ' house aunties' who work at a meagre Rs 4,000- 5,000 per month," said an official involved with the centre.
The ministry has reportedly asked officials to clear the buildings lying vacant in the complex to house the inmates. The centre has 740 inmates though its capacity is 350.