Although human rights activists had raked up the appalling conditions in state-run old age homes, the government is yet to shed its callousness
Situated in Basantpur, 55 km away from the Shimla, the government-run old age home is a veritable hell.
Mentally-ill and completely bed- ridden Kedar (55) cramped inside a dingy room spent his time by playing with his night soil, while Krishna Devi (40), another person with severe mental illness blabbers continuously without any pause.
Kedar died on June 18 in the same appalling conditions while government was showing its true indifferent nature even after the issue was raised up in the media by a public welfare trust, Umang Foundation and a congress MLA Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu raised a question in the state legislative assembly on 5th April. Another inmate Hari Ram physically disabled and hearing impaired, is missing fro the Home since 1st July. Krishna's mental sickness hasn't let her roommate Gandharku Devi sleep for nights together. Now Gandharku has also become mentally sick.
Now, Ajai Srivastava, a noted human rights activist and chairman of Umang Foundation who is determined to fight for their rights, has written a letter to the chief secretary of the state demanding a judicial probe in this matter otherwise he would file a PIL in the High Court. Mrs. Urmila Singh, Governor of Himachal Pradesh, after going through the media reports, showed her concern and has sought a report from the state and the government was forced to institute an inquiry which in progress.
A visit to the old age home at Basantpur, established in 1964 and run by Himachal Pradesh State Social Welfare Board was horrendous and shocking. Gross Human Rights violation and extreme negligence on the part of the state government was clearly visible in the home.
The old age home has become more of a torture home for those lonely people who don't have anyone to support them in their last days of life. 19 such people are forced by the destiny to live in filth and then die a disrespectful death where their bodies are burnt by putting on wood, without performing religious rites, a RTI query revealed.
"Mujhe Haridwar ke kisi ghat par chhod do kyunki wahan marne par koi mera antim sanskar toh kardega. Yahan se toh nark hi jayenge," (Drop me on some ghat in Haridwar. Someone would at least perform my last rites there. I will directly go to hell, if I stay here) wailed fragile Jaiwanti whose spinal cord has almost twisted. The thought of dying without proper last rituals hovering over inmate's mind is increasing psychological pressure and trauma tremendously.
Hari Ram, a physically disabled and hearing impaired, is missing from the Old Age Home since July 1, 2012. According to other inmates, he used to ask them to drop him to his one known person living in Junaga village as he believed that the said person would perform his last rituals at least. Hari Ram also regularly used to send some amount from his old age pension of Rs. 330 to him for his last rituals.
The home with dingy 20 rooms has pathetic sanitation system with no safe water even for drinking purpose. Constitutional rights like Right to Life, Right to live with dignity and Right to die with dignity are being violated each day in the old age home. Frequent untimely deaths are being observed in the home because of the dreadful living conditions. The government had lodged 16 disabled persons in the old age home, although many of them are not old. The home is not meant for them as there is no specially trained care giver for them.
"Extreme violation of Human Rights can be seen in the old age home. We have raised this serious issue in the media but government has indifferently rejected all the allegations", exclaimed Ajai Srivastava, who personally visited the place with his team. He said after he highlighted this issue in the media; a question was raised in Vidhan Sabha by Congress MLA Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu. But in her reply, the minister for social justice and empowerment Mrs. Sarvin Chaudhary refuted all allegations.
"We were forced to file an application in the High Court to seek immediate admission poor mentally sick inmates in to mental hospital as the minister had stated in her reply in the assembly that there are no inmate with mental sickness in the Home. The court ordered to shift three severely mentally sick persons including Krishna, who was diagnosed to be a severe patient of TB, to local state mental hospital", Ajai Srivastava added.
He also said that the state has not followed mandatory guidelines of High Court for mental health checkup of all inmates of old aged home in the state. After the efforts of the Foundation, government started old age pension of Rs. 330 of the inmates.
With in such appalling conditions, lives Sonam Bahadur (42), who lost both his legs after he fell into a furnace, has designed an indigenous method that doesn't let him confined to a single place. "I just try to motivate people and make them forget all their problems. That is all I can do, I guess," shares Sonam with a spark of liveliness in his pale eyes. He says," We have not even provided with disability certificate by the authorities that could give us a legal status of being disabled to avail facilities meant for us."