THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Ask Motilal (name changed), hailing from Lahore district in Jharkhand, about how he ended up in Kerala and a gentle laugh is his response. The 29-year-old arrived at the Thiruvananthapuram Central railway station during the pandemic after last year’s nationwide lockdown had kicked in.
“I caught a train from Mumbai to find work here. My friend Anil told me about the work and I came here,” recalls Motilal. But by the time he arrived in the state capital, he had lost his mobile. Clueless and lost in a place with hardly any contact, Motilal soon drew the attention of the police.
Officers were unable to understand his language and soon Motilal ended up at the Government Mental Health Centre at Peroorkkada. Motilal never had any mental health issues. When this became clear, he was transferred to the Shradha Care Home run by the district panchayat at Venjaramoodu, from where his contacts were traced and family alerted. Now, several months on, he’s all set to go home.
Motilal is among the six non-Keralite inmates of the care home. The district panchayat has been reintegating those who recovered from mental illness into mainstream society for the past 10 years. In a first, the district panchayat is all set to send back six non Keralites to their home states.
Three of them, including Motilal, came to Kerala looking for work. Except for Motilal, the other five were suffering from mental health issues. Of the lot, 50-year-old Sohan has had the longest stay at the care home. At 41, Sohan ended up in the capital from Bihar. Though Sohan says he wants to go home and vividly remembers that his family includes his parents, his relatives could not be traced up till now. With no address or ID proof, there is no choice, but to send Sohan to a care home in his home state.
They are being rehabilitated as part of district panchayat’s Pratyasha project. On Monday, Social Justice Minister R Bindu inaugurated the initiative. As a farewell gift, the minister presented them sweet packets. Now, they will be shifted to a rehabilitation centre in Malayattur, where they will undergo psycho-social training, and then return to their home states. Except for two individuals, the families of others could be traced.
“Often the families aren’t willing to take them back even after they recover from their mental health issues. Among the lot, there have been people who have been constantly requesting the need to go home and meet their families. The idea is to reintegrate them into social mainstream. It is easy to put them in a centre and provide what they need. But as a society, it is our responsibility to equip them with life skills,” says welfare standing committee chairman Vilappil Radhakrishnan. As many as 19 inmates remain at the care home now. Six more recovered patients from the health centre will be accommodated here.