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Rehabilitation centres under scanner

Staff Reporter

Complaints of their owners operating without a valid licence

— PHOTO: K. Gopinathan

NOT SO SAFE: A police officer during a visit to the rehabilitation centre at SBM Colony, Anand Nagar in Bangalore on Wednesday from where some people were rescued during raids.

BANGALORE: The Karnataka State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) has turned its attention to rehabilitation and de-addiction centres that are being run without licence. The action follows a raid by an SHRC team on two such illegal centres in the city and the rescue of 140 inmates living in appalling conditions.

Inspector-General of Police Bipin Gopalakrishna said the SHRC had received information about some rehabilitation centres operating without licence under the Mental Authority Act. On Tuesday, a SHRC team led by Mr. Gopalakrishna and other policemen raided the Safe and Serene Foundation’s rehabilitation centres in Ananda Nagar and Kaval Byrasandra and found 140 persons, who were undergoing de-addition regimes, living in abysmal conditions. Some were confined to rooms and beaten.

The raid followed a complaint by A. Narayana Swamy of Kolar, whose son Vishwajit was released recently from the Ananda Nagar centre.

“Vishwajit was eccentric. We admitted him at the centre hoping he could be counselled and coached for this 10th standard examination. We were shocked when he told us about the way he was treated at the centre,” Mr. Swamy told The Hindu.

The SHRC team talked to the inmates, who were aged between 13 and 65. “We were made to sit naked in a corner for hours and beaten black and blue with sticks and iron rods,” said a traumatised Vishwajit. “When our parents came to visit us, we were being tutored to speak well about the facilities. We were threatened with beatings by Saif Pasha (who set up the centres) and counsellor Sujatha,” he said.

The inmates, including a 27-year-old man from Dubai, complained of being confined to a room for several days. “I have not been released even after I told the counsellor about overcoming my addiction,” said the 27-year-old, who was admitted here by his Dubai-based parents.

On Wednesday, the police sent most of the rescued inmates along with their parents and relatives.

“The inmates were forced to stay on as it generates an income of Rs. 5 lakh a month. Each person at the centre was paying Rs. 3,500 a month,” said Prakash Kariyappa of South India Cell for Human Rights Education and Monitoring, who accompanied the SHRC team.

“They were staying in inhuman conditions. There were no qualified doctors and psychologists,” said SHRC chairman S.R. Nayak.

The SHRC has arrested and filed cases against Saif Pasha, Sujatha and her son Dilip at Hebbal and Devarajeevanahalli police stations.

Ali Khwaja, a well-known counsellor, said every rehabilitation and de-addiction centre should be licensed by the Mental Health Authority. Lack of awareness of this and other prerequisites regarding rehabilitation centres led to such entrapments.

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