Showing posts with label Human Rights. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Human Rights. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Rights of Prisoners with Disabilities

Kalpana Kannabiran

Where prison facilities are not equipped to deal with the specific needs of persons with disabilities, arrest and detention in custody should be a measure of last resort

We have a slew of cases around prisoners’ rights that emphasise their right to dignity and their right against cruel and degrading punishment, which have been understood to violate the right to life, guaranteed by Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. In complying with the standards set out in constitutional jurisprudence on this matter, the offence for which the person has been apprehended or convicted is immaterial. The standard is clear. No person shall be subjected to degrading, inhuman or cruel punishment that is violative of human dignity; the duty of care to be exercised in this matter during pre-trial custody is of a much higher order. These are standards applicable to all custodial situations and to all persons, irrespective of caste, sex, race, religion, or place of birth.

Treatment in custody

The Veena Sethi case in the early 1980s brought to light the treatment of prisoners with mental illnesses and their prolonged incarceration for periods ranging from 16 to 30 years in custody. This is far in excess of sentences given to them in most of these cases, without bringing them any substantive relief beyond release from illegal custody and transport and food expenses till they reached home. That was long before there was a consciousness or political articulation of the rights of persons with disabilities, which, importantly today, includes civil and political rights for prisoners with disabilities.

We have seen some reports on the arrest of Dr. G.N. Saibaba and the conditions under which he is being held in custody. The fact that needs close and urgent examination here is not whether he has Maoist “links” or whether he is a “sympathiser” or even whether a university professor can be harassed in this manner (although we must separate his troubles in the university from his treatment by the officers of the criminal justice system.) What needs our immediate attention is even more fundamental: as a person with disabilities who requires constant assistance and support, what are the standard minimum rules that must temper the decision to take him into custody, in order that the treatment meted out to him is not construed as cruel, degrading and inhuman?

It would be useful for the authorities who have taken Dr. Saibaba into custody to be informed of India’s commitment to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). Article 4(d) enjoins States Parties “to refrain from engaging in any act or practice that is inconsistent with the present Convention and to ensure that public authorities and institutions act in conformity with the present Convention.” What are the specific protections for persons with disabilities in relation to state custody? Article 15(1) of the UNCRPD is immediately relevant: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” Article 15(2) of the Convention places an obligation on the state to protect persons with disabilities from cruel degrading or inhuman treatment and punishment. It says, “States Parties shall take all effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent persons with disabilities, on an equal basis with others, from being subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

The norm of substantive equality, well established through constitutional jurisprudence in India, speaks of the principle of equality that necessarily includes special treatment for persons who are vulnerable. The denial of special provisions, appropriate assistance and specialised health care access to a person with disabilities in custody, who uses a wheelchair and has special health care needs arising from chronic illness, comes firmly within the meaning of degrading, inhuman and cruel treatment in derogation of the state’s obligation under the UNCRPD.

Particularly where a prisoner with disability requires support and assistance for daily living, placing such a prisoner in solitary confinement and denying the right to accessible facilities for personal care and hygiene is violative of the right to dignity and bodily integrity — both guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution, but also under Article 17 of the UNCRPD. The latter simply and pertinently states that “every person with disabilities has a right to respect for his or her physical and mental integrity on an equal basis with others.”

The Rights of Persons with Disabilities legislation that ought to set out these standards in clear and unequivocal terms has been ever in the making in India. The absence of specific legislation, however, need not deter us from the path of justice. Article 14 of the Constitution that sets out the substantive right to equality before law, and Article 21 that sets out the framework for the right to life (with dignity) — as it specifically applies to prisoners — should at this time be read with the UNCRPD which India has ratified. This is till the time that we put in place policies and national legislation that mandatorily provide for special services and basic needs that prisoners with disabilities might require, and prioritise the conditional and compassionate release of prisoners with high support needs.

Vulnerability of women

Recognising the vulnerability of women in custodial situations, the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) provides very different standards for their involvement in criminal investigation. There are also special standards for the treatment of women prisoners and pregnant women in custody. The demand for treatment that is sensitive to the rights of persons with disabilities to dignity and physical integrity and to their specific needs is therefore not unprecedented. Where prison and custodial facilities are not equipped at all to deal with the specific needs of persons with disabilities, arrest and detention in custody should be a measure of last resort, clearly not the case where Dr. Saibaba is concerned. The investigating authorities must release him from custody forthwith and carry out any investigations they may require, without infringing on his right to human dignity and fundamental freedoms, and in full compliance with the CPC, the Constitution and the UNCRPD.

(Kalpana Kannabiran is Professor and director, Council for Social Development, Hyderabad.)

Source: The Hindu

Friday, August 31, 2012

Death toll 228 at Asha Kiran since 2005, unabated

Dear Colleagues,

Those of you who work with person with multiple disabilities have seen them living ordinary life if given proper medication for epilepsy and care. However, there is utter chaos at Asha Kiran centre where no one want to take the blame for the deaths which are happening in the Govt. run institution. The centre says it is the severe mental retardation and epileptic fits that is leading to deaths while the court appointed committee and any person involved or with experience in caring for a person with multiple disabilities would say that it is unhygienic conditions, lack of medical facilities and mismanagement at the Asha Kiran which is resulting in avoidable deaths. Human life doesn't seem to have a value here.

I wanted to share a personal experience of one and half year back. One day on my way to work, I suddenly saw, a person with mental disability roaming on the ring road and then sitting under a flyover. I really got worried about his life and always thought some day some vehicle might strike him down and I thought of admitting him to the state run centres where he will be cared. Sooner, I realised the pathetic condition of the Centres that we are discussing here, I decided not to even think that way. I consulted several of my friends who expressed that this person may live a better, safe and longer life under a flyover than a State run Centre and that I should stop thinking of making efforts to have him shifted to a "safer" place like Asha Kiran.

Today after more than one and half year, when I continue to see him every day at the same place while on way to work, I feel how mistaken I was. He is at least happy & safe here and leading his life though with help from passer byes. I am sure if I had decided otherwise, I wouldn't see him alive!

Here is the news from Hindustan Times of 31st Aug 2012 giving you the update:

At Asha Kiran, 228 inmates have died since 2005

The Delhi government has admitted that 228 deaths have taken place at Asha Kiran, the Capital’s lone home for mentally challenged children and adults, since 2005. In an affidavit filed recently before the Delhi High Court hearing a PIL complaining of lack of medical care and shockingly  unhygienic conditions at the home in Rohini, the Delhi government said 59 inmates died in 2005-06, 28 in 2006-07, 34 in 2007-08, 37 in 2008-09, 46 in 2009-10, 11 in 2010-11 and 13 in 2011-July 2012.

During a hearing on August 8, the court had slammed the government for the inhuman manner in which the inmates were kept at the home and termed it the "worst kind of human rights violation". The court was perusing a report submitted by a court-appointed committee which inspected the premises of the welfare home.

Expressing shock at the revelation of 228 deaths, human rights activist and a member of the court-appointed committee Colin Gonsalves said: "This figure is high but the government feels it is low. They thought that by stating it on an affidavit it would save them before the court. The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights has repeatedly said deaths were taking place at the home due to negligence."

A bench of acting chief justice AK Sikri and justice RS Endlaw is to take a stand on the issue on Friday. The government denied the deaths were due to negligence and mismanagement. "Biological factors play a major role in high mortality rates among the mentally-challenged persons. A large number of inmates at Asha Kiran fall in the categories of severe and profound mental retardation with multiple disabilities and suffering from epileptic fits. Studies show that such types of individual keep very shortened life expectancy," the government said.

DP Bharal, deputy director with the department of social welfare, said in an affidavit: "From 59 deaths in 2005-2006, the same has come down to 13 in 2011-12. None of the deaths occurred due to negligence. The inmates who died were extreme cases of mental retardation or having chronic medical ailments."

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Thalassaemic finally gets job he was denied

Dear Friends,

I am surprised as to why each time the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) has to intervene and take a credit to give the persons living with disabling conditions their basic dues such a government job at their own merit?

Why can't we have ministries and babus using their brains to implement laws and rules themselves and stop discriminating on the grounds of disabilities. This is ridiculous that for each right, a person with disability in India has to face discrimination and then he is forced to knock the doors of judiciary or some political leader. Are they doing a favour to persons with disabilities by agreeing to give them a job which the person has otherwise earned through his own merit?

So much so, that many government departments have started illegally adjusting those persons with disabilities in the disability quota seats who have passed the recruitment exams on their own in general merit. This amounts to reducing the persons with disabilities to maximum 3% rather than minimum 3% reserved seats as mandated by the Act of 1995! Is the Government listening?

Thalassaemic finally gets job he was denied

By Vikas Kahol in Chandigarh

AFTER over a year of blood, sweat and tears, Sukhsohit Singh’s efforts have borne fruit. The first thalassaemic in the country to clear the civil services examination but declared unfit because of the rare genetic disorder, he is finally set to be inducted into the Indian Defence Accounts Services ( Group A).

An observation by the medical board at Vardhman Mahavir Medical College and Safdarjung Hospital in New Delhi had jeopardised Sukhsohit’s career. The board had declared him “ unfit for all services” as he suffers from thalassaemia major. M AIL T ODAY highlighted the issue in its June 13 issue under the headline ‘ Thalassaemic man denied a job that was rightfully his’. On Friday, a beaming Sukhsohit stated that he received an official communication from the department of personnel and training ( DoPT) informing him about the assignment. The formal offer of appointment would be sent by the defence ministry, the cadre- controlling authority. The DoPT has also requested the ministry to allow Sukhsohit to join by September 13 and exempt him from attending the foundation course.

“I am happy that my dream is fulfilled. I am also thankful to the government authorities, including the Prime Minister who intervened to help me bag the civil servant’s job. The media’s effort, too, was commendable as it made out a strong case for me,” he said.

Sukhsohit had listed three preferences: The Indian Defence Accounts Services, Indian Railway Accounts Services and Indian Railway Personnel Services. All the three come under Group A civil services. “ I had deliberately opted for non- police services that were commensurate with my rank.

Sukhsohit, who lives in Panchkula near Chandigarh, was diagnosed with thalassaemia major in 1985 when he was only one and a half years old. The doctors advised his parents — his father Wing Commander ( retired) M. S. Bawa and mother Gursharan Kaur — to take good care of their son and assured them that he would be able to lead a “ normal” life. Regular medication and blood transfusions were their prescriptions for his good health.

Sukhsohit braved the disease for about 25 years and did not face any mental or physical disorder. Not only was he regular at school, his attendance was exceptionally high. He topped in the 10+ 2 examination in the Chandigarh region Kendriya Vidyalayas. After completing B Com ( Hons) in Business Economics from Panjab University, he secured the first rank in the income tax examination.

His disease did not deter him from securing the first position in MA in public administration, and he qualified for the UGC’s junior research fellowship ( JRF). Currently, Sukhsohit is pursuing PhD in public administration.

He said clearing the civil services exam had been his sole dream and he opted for non- technical services.

Monday, February 22, 2010

We need indepent commissioners for Disability and a minimum wage social security

Dear Friends,

I second the demand of United Voices for Disability Equality in Odisha with little additions.

What we require is an Independent Commissioner for disabilities, with a rank equal to secretary & be preferably from the disability sector! Also the amount of social secruity has to match with minimum wages for skilled workers looking at cost of living index in each state. The charity doles of 500, 700, 1500 do not help the person with disability live an independent life. We need to say clearly "Please stop playing politics here, we are a potential vote bank of 10.21 lakh and if we include our families, friends and wellwishers, this number could be four fold and can be devastating for the prospects of any political party in the ensuing elections!

Here is the news report on demands of "United Voices for Disability Equality"

Hike in aid for the disabled

BHUBANESWAR: The number of persons with disabilities is 12.21 lakh. But Orissa is yet to have a full-time and independent disability commissioner .

Differently-abled persons under the aegis of United Voices for Disability Equality (UVDE) today demanded filling up of the post before the ensuing Assembly session for immediate redressal of the problems of people with disabilities (PWDs) .

The office of the commissioner should be outside the State Secretariat building with barrier-free access, they demanded saying currently the PWDs are facing many problems even to reach the official concerned .

It would be better if the commissioner can be selected from among the differently-abled persons or parents of the disabled children so that the actual problems of the PWDs can be solved immediately, they said .

The forum, after a day-long deliberations today decided to give a memorandum to the Chief Minister, minister concerned, Opposition members and all MLAs tomorrow. “If the Government fails to make an announcement before the Assembly session then we would hold a protest before the Assembly,’’ they said .

The UVDE, consisting of 11 organisations from 21 districts, also decided that they would be forced to go for an agitational path further if the Government would not pay any heed to their genuine demands during the session, they said adding in 18 states across the country disability commissioners are working independently according to the PWD Act passed by Parliament in 1995 .

They told mediapersons that even when a disability commissioner incharge takes the burden here, he/she cannot function independently as he/ she also looks after the programmes of other departments .

Some UVDE members even said that though the ruling BJD manifesto had been mentioning about appointment of a disability commissioner for the last three elections, no initiative is taken yet .

“Not only this is a betrayal, but politically it means a lot to all our 10.21 lakh member community,’’ they said alleging that by not appointing a disability commissioner the Government is violating the human rights of the differently-abled people, which are guaranteed under the PWD Act .

Not only the appointment of the official, but Orissa is still providing a monetary benefit of Rs 200 a month to differently-abled persons as assistance and it is far less than in other states .

While Goa is giving Rs 1,500 and Delhi and Uttar Pradesh Rs 900, Maharashtra and Kerala are providing Rs 700 a month .

On the other hand, while Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Uttarakhand are giving Rs 600, newly-formed Jharkhand gives double the amount of what Orissa provides, they said .

“With 2.78 per cent of the State population, we always deserve a better deal,’’ they pointed out and urged the Government to acknowledge their rights first which are ensured by the Constitution .

Friday, January 15, 2010

Deaths at Asha Kiran- isn't this a criminal negligence on part of State?

Dear Friends,

"Poor maintenance or lack of basic amenities could be contributing factors, however prima facie all the deaths seems to be natural" ! The statement doesn't inspire confidence.

It is evident that the deaths occurred due to lack of facilities which is equally criminal negligence of duty when compared to inflicting a fatal blow on some hapless person entirely in your custody with no chance to escape! Are you really serious about the human rights of those whom you put in institutions and forget?

Can the Government of Delhi own up the negligence on its part and fix the responsibilities of lapse and and provide for appropriate systems at the earliest?

The human rights record is so poor when it comes to disabled people here. And the Govt. is answerable to the nation and international community soon with the State Progress report on actions taken by Govt. in light of UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilites" falling due in May 2010.

DCPCR must act and ensure that those at fault are booked in terms of law and immediate preventive action are taken to restore dignity of life and basic services in the state run home by Delhi Govt.

Around 75 inmates died between 2004 and 2008 at the complex

Published on 01/14/2010 - 10:17:24 AM

New Delhi: The deaths of 12 inmates of a state-run juvenile home in one month were natural, the Delhi government said Wednesday in its reply to a National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) notice. According to investigating officials, poor maintenance or lack of basic amenities could be contributing factors.

According to investigating officials, poor maintenance or lack of basic amenities could be contributing factors.

The NHRC Tuesday issued a notice to Delhi Chief Secretary Rakesh Mehta asking for a detailed report into the cause of deaths of members of Asha Kiran Home and the state of affairs at the juvenile home, in north west Delhi's Rohini area.

"The Delhi government has filed a reply to NHRC. Of the 12 inmates who died, one was under 18 years. Prima facie the cause of death appears to be natural. However, based on that we won't close investigations. In previous reports, the home was found to lack basic requirement and had poor sanitation levels. We are going to see if the deaths had anything to do with that," a senior official of the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR) told IANS.

The NHRC was acting on a complaint filed by human rights activist Prabir Kumar Das who alleged that 12 mentally challenged inmates of the home had died in one month.

Media reports suggested that three of the 12 had died within 24 hours due to lack of basic facilities such as warm clothes.

An earlier report by the child right's panel in June last year had found that although sanctioned for 250 inmates, the only state-run complex for mentally challenged people in the national capital houses 750 mentally retarded men, women and children.

The children were found to be suffering from tuberculosis, seizures and skin diseases. The home lacked hygiene and proper sanitary conditions. Around 75 inmates died between 2004 and 2008 at the complex.

In many of these cases, the cause of death was epileptic seizures, which the DCPCR probe committee said could be owing to neglect of medical authorities.

The detailed report from the chief secretary sought by NHRC is due within four weeks time.

Asha Kiran- a state run hope for disabled reports 12 deaths in December alone!

Dear Friends,

Nothing is well at Asha Kiran. With the capacity of 350, you stuff 730 inmates, isn't this a violation of basic human rights of those who can't take care of themselves due to their disabling conditions that they live with?

Also are we providing sufficient support to the numbers housed there with one carer looking after 40 persons? Is it humanely possible for one person to care 40 inmates with varying degree of disability and associated medical condition like epilepsy, tuberculosis- forget about fever, cold, smaller injuries! This is gross violation and you can't expect the carers to work at Rs 3934/- per month and look after 40 people every day.

Perhaps it is the fear of catching infections that even the doctors do not examine them closely and properly! This is just not acceptable. The facilities need to be created /provided strictly as per norms as it is the responsibility of the Govt. Each life is precious !

Hope each one you are perturbed at the conditions that prevail at Asha Kiran in Delhi and several other institutions across length and breadth of India in similar state which never make headlines! If we tolerate it as an accepted norm, perhaps we don't deserve to be called a socialist democratic republic!

In December, 12 people died at this home for mentally retarded; few caregivers, little care, reveals report by Social Welfare Department

As the green ambulance rolls through the 7-ft gates of Asha Kiran complex, in Awantika, near Rohini, a middle-aged man looks out of the window, trying to capture one last glimpse of the outside world. Within seconds, the gates shut.

In December, 12 deaths were reported here — three of them within 24 hours.

The inquiry report by the Social Welfare Department (a copy of which is with Newsline) under which the centre works, concludes that death is not new for Asha Kiran.  Over the last four years, 128 inmates have died in the home. The complex, built for 350 people, now houses 730.

“The mentally retarded inmates suffer from multiple deficiencies as far as physical health is concerned. Because of this, particularly in respect of severely retarded inmates, life expectancy is relatively low,” reads the report filed by Director, Social Welfare, S A Awardi. According to the report, 60 per cent of inmates are in the “category of severely or profoundly mentally retarded persons.” Many inmates do not even survive a year. There is no segregation of people who have infectious diseases like tuberculosis.

The inmates are taken care of by ‘house aunties’. The staff reveals that each of them sometimes take care of over 40 people. They are paid Rs 3,934 per month for 8-hour daily job — which probably explains why a majority of the caregivers quit within days of joining.

“The inmates feed each other and give each other a bath,” said a sweeper working in the male ward. “There’s too much noise and it is not easy to work.”

The report states: “Many gave up their jobs after serving for a very short period. It is mentioned that providing every care like a mother to mentally retarded persons is really difficult.”

Constant medical care is available. But the staff say the doctors merely prescribe medicines without even closely examining the inmates.

Despite the fact that the walls of the complex are nearly 10-feet tall and the high gates are guarded 24-hours, the officials have even reported cases of children going missing. On December 24, the Social Welfare Department advertised in newspapers about two inmates. One of them, Raju, was 16 years old and 4.8 ft tall. He was admitted on 21 May and has been missing since 16 September. More bizarre was the case of the 7-year-old boy admitted in December 2006. The child was merely 3.6 ft tall.

December deaths
Dec 2: Krishna (16), living here since 2007. Post mortem report awaited
Dec 9: Anu (20), had been staying since 2006. Cause of death tuberculosis and epileptic fit
Dec 12: Ranveer Kumar (48), was admitted at Sanjay Gandhi Memorial Hospital, Mangolpuri, since 16 November following dehydration and swelling in legs
Dec 14: Manjeet (55) was admitted at the Sanjay Gandhi Hospital, suffered from swelling of body
Dec 15: Raj Kumar (42) admitted in Sanjay Gandhi Hospital since 12 December. Had swelling of body, difficulty in breathing
Dec 18: Seeta Gauri (19), living here since 1989. Cause of death cardio-pulmonary arrest
Dec 19: Sandeep, was under treatment since Nov 29 at Sanjay Gandhi Hospital, was referred to LNJP. Cause of death Meningoencephalitis with refractory shock
Dec 25: Soni, living here since in 2007, died due to seizure disorder
Dec 27: Meena Payal (38), living here since 1999, postmortem report awaited
Dec 29: Angoori (19), living here since August 200, was suffering from asthma and TB
Dec 29: Sangeeta (21), had been living here since 1996. Body discovered several hours after death, was a victim of bone tuberculosis
Dec 30: Deepti (12) had been here since March 2009, cause of death epilepsy