35 persons with mental illness rescued in Chennai

Operation prioritises dignity of patients, but activists say programme had lapses

Published: 30th July 2021 04:41 AM  |   Last Updated: 30th July 2021 04:41 AM   |  A+A-

A person with mental illness being rescued at Washermanpet | P Jawahar

By Express News Service

CHENNAI: The city corporation, along with the National Health Mission (NHM), on Thursday rescued 35 persons with mental illness from the streets. They are to be admitted to the Emergency Care and Recovery Centre (ECRC) in Tondiarpet, which was inaugurated on Thursday.

While the corporation and the NHM made several changes to the rescue programme in order to make it a safe and dignified operation with the consent of the individuals, activists who accompanied the officials said that the programme left much to be desired.

Archanaa Seker, a Chennai-based activist, said that the programme did not have a clear agenda as to what it prioritised. While starting out to rescue persons with mental illness, the programme on Thursday also focused on vaccinations for Covid-19 if they are found to be RT-PCR negative.

“Some of those who were picked up said they were already vaccinated but we cannot know for sure. Do we also assume that they had not tested positive in the last three months because according to the Union Health Ministry guidelines, we have to wait three months after recovery for vaccines? And who takes responsibility for the next dose?,” she asked.

The rescue programme itself had several photographers and staff crowding homeless persons although none of them were picked up without their explicit consent, she added. 

The rescues were done in six buses — with around five people rescued in each bus. Those rescued were taken to one of the three schools identified, where psychiatric evaluation and RT-PCR tests were conducted.

In a lapse of judgement, several photographs and videos of persons with mental illnesses were circulated by the Department of Information & Public Relations on Thursday evening with the faces of patients clearly visible. Officials said that steps will be taken to blur the faces but the photos and videos had already been circulated by then.


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