KOZHIKODE: There may not be more tragic a tale than that of 72-year-old Vijayan (name changed), a native of Palakkad. He has been confined to a 35-square-foot cell for the last half a century of his life.
A remand prisoner, Vijayan has been languishing in the Government Mental Health Centre, Kuthiravattom, here since February 10, 1969, when he was just 22. He was remanded by the Palakkad Sessions Court but the trial could not be held in all these 50 years as he has been suffering from chronic schizophrenia. The details of the original case against him could not be obtained from the government records. The latest remarks about his trial in the government file say,”Not fit for trial. Can be sent to rehabilitation centre.”
Like Vijayan, there is another 68-year-old man, who has been languishing in the Kuthiravattom mental health centre for 39 years. Two others from Tamil Nadu -- both aged 50 -- have been at the centre for the last 36 years. This is the horrible state of affairs of these persons.
Altogether, there are 115 convicted and remand prisoners at the three government mental health centres in the state -- Kuthiravattom, Peroorkada in Thiruvananthapuram, and Thrissur. The court has acquitted 20 of them, but they continue to be in the mental hospitals because of their mental condition or because their families have disowned them.
According to Peroorkada mental health centre Superintendent Dr L Anil Kumar, the cell inside the centre is just like the cell in a jail. “As they are convicted or remand prisoners, they will not be brought outside like other inmates. It’s like a jail itself,” he told Express.
Double traumatised as a convict/undertrial and mentally ill, these persons can now heave a sigh of relief, if they are able to feel it, as Social Justice Department (SJD) is going to shift eight of the court-acquitted persons at these centres to a rehabilitation centre. “In the first phase, eight of them will be shifted from Peroorkada hospital. The other court-acquitted at the other two centres will follow suit,” said a top department officer.
A committee comprising the District Legal Services Authority secretary, mental health centre superintendent and another doctor from the centre concerned would decide if the court-acquitted persons’ mental illness is under control and their rehabilitation can be taken up.According to Thrissur mental health centre Superintendent Dr T R Rekha, she has forwarded a list of five persons fit for shifting.
“The eight persons will be rehabilitated to Archbishop Mar Gregorious Snehaveedu and Divyashanti Ashraman, both in Thiruvananthapuram. A sum of Rs 39,660 has been sanctioned annually for each person’s food, clothes, medicines and personal hygiene items,” said SJD Special Secretary Biju Prabhakar.
The families of all eight have been reluctant to take them home. As many as 33 NGOs have evinced interest in rehabilitating such persons.