The National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, India, has taken cognizance of a complaint on the alleged violation of human rights of the mentally ill people roaming on the streets across the country amid COVID lockdown.
It has asked the Union Home Ministry to inform within two weeks about the arrangements made for them. The response shall include details of the steps taken or proposed to be taken by the authorities to address the issue raised in the complaint.
In the meantime necessary directions may be issued by them to all the States and Union Territories, UTs to ensure that persons suffering from any kind of mental ailments under their jurisdiction are provided with proper counselling towards necessary precautions for their personal care and protection from the virus and not deprived of basic amenities like food, shelter and medical care etc.
The Commission has observed that it is aware that the efforts are being made by the Central and the State governments to fight the spread of the COVID-19 virus and to ensure right to food and health care for the citizens but some sections of the society such as persons suffering from mental illness require specific attention as even in normal circumstances, they are dependent on others and always need a support. Therefore, in this time of crisis, it becomes the duty of the State to ensure food, shelter and social security for the people belonging to such vulnerable classes. This becomes more necessary because not only the people suffering from mental illness may be deprived of basic amenities but also become easy carrier of the deadly virus posing life threat to many.
Therefore, it said , it was considered appropriate to forward the complaint along with its proceeding to the Home Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, New Delhi calling for comments in the matter.
According to the complaint, people have been restricted to remain indoors and only essential services are functional due to the countrywide lockdown announced by the Centre from 23.03.2020 onwards. The Central and the State governments have taken various steps to address the issues relating to the grievance of the daily wages workers, migrant labours and other such people who are working in the unorganized sectors to provide them food, shelter and other basic amenities during the period of lockdown. It has further stated that a large number of persons suffering from various mental illnesses are loitering on the streets and are dependent for food, shelter and other kind of help on temples, gurudwaras and other charity organisations. But the administration has not issued any specific guidelines for these people and no arrangements for their survival during this period of crisis have been made.
National Human Rights Commission
[Press release dt. 10-04-2020]