Himachal Pradesh government has ordered an inquiry in to the alleged gross human rights violations in the Old Age Home at Basantpur, about 55 KM away from Shimla. One paralytic mentally sick inmate had died recently in the Home and another physically disabled and hearing impaired inmate is missing since 1st July.
Established in 1964, the Old Age Home is run by State Social Welfare Board of the government and its pathetic condition has made headlines in the media. The Governor of Himachal Pradesh showed her concern and sought report from the government on 18th July, 2012 when Ajai Srivastava, chairman of Umang Foundation; and a noted human rights activist of Himachal Pradesh wrote a letter to the chief secretary demanding judicial probe in the matter and released it to media.
The Old Age Home first time came in to controversy in neary five decades of its existence when a team of Umang Foundation led by Ajai Srivastava visited the Home on 25th March, 2012, and studied the violations of human rights of its inmates. When the Department of Social Justice and Empowerment refused to subscribe the allegations of the Foundation, Ajai Srivastava addressed a press conference on 1st April. On 5th April, this issue was raised in the state legislative assembly by a congress MLA Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu quoting the allegations of the Foundation. Ms. Sarvin Chaudhary maintained in her reply that there were no human rights violations in the Home.
According to Ajai Srivastava, there are 19 inmates in the Home; out of them 16 are persons with disabilities including mental sickness. Despite `guidelines issued by the health department on the orders of H.P. High Court, Department of Social Justice and Empowerment never bothered to conduct regular mental health check up of the inmates. “About six persons were apparently found by us to be suffering from mental sickness. When the government did not accept our plea to shift them to the mental hospital, I approached the high court and on the order of the court, three persons were admitted to the mental hospital”, he added.
Kedar Singh, who was totally paralytic with severe mental sickness, used to play with his night soil. He died in the same condition as the authorities did not provide him proper medical care. Krishna Devi, a complete lunatic, Gandharku Devi and Sada Shiv, also mentally sick were among those who needed immediate intervention of a psychiatrist. In its past history of nearly five decades, the Old Age Home management never made cremation with religious rites of inmates who took last breath in the refuge of the state. “It is a gross violation of human rights. Even a Pakistani terrorist when dies in India is buried as per Islamic rituals. These poor helpless inmates are, after all our own”, says Ajai Srivastava who has procured ample information on this subject under RTI Act.
Facing great psychological trauma due to non performance of religious cremation of the dead, one Hari Ram, physically as well as hearing impaired disappeared from the Home on 1st July. His whereabouts are still not known.
As many as 16 disabled, including persons with visual, hearing, physical and mental sickness, are there in the Home. But the government never bothered to provide them a disability certificate which could entitle them to avail some facilities provided by the state to this section of the society.
The inquiry ordered by the government will be conducted by Additional Deputy Commissioner of Shimla.
“We will spare no efforts to ensure justice to the helpless inmates and book the culprits sitting in high positions in the government. The state is bound by law to protect the human rights of its citizens and if it fails, we are ready to knock the doors of high court”, Ajai Srivastava said.