The Telangana High Court on Monday took note of the deplorable the state of inmates of old-age homes in the state, who are "hapless and helpless elderly persons, abandoned by their family, and are being ignored by the State".
The Chief Justice-led bench, taking suo motu cognisance of the conditions of the Old Age Homes functioning in the cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad, was "shocked" by the picture revealed by the Interim Report of the Amicus Curiae.
"For, the picture clearly reveals that the fundamental rights of the elderly inmates are being violated, both by the Managers, who are supposed to run the Homes, and certainly by the State Government, who is legally bound to register, to maintain, to inspect, to fund, and to look after the rights of the elderly population", lamented the division bench of Chief Justice Raghvendra Singh Chauhan and Justice B Vijaysen Reddy.
The bench noted that the OId Age Homes are being run by NGOs. These NGOs are being funded by private donors, or by the payments they receive from the inmates. While some of them run free, without charging the inmates, others are charging Rs.2,000/- to Rs.30,000/- from the inmates. Those Homes which are charging between Rs.6,000/- and Rs,30,000/- have "a modicum of self regulation", but other Homes which are charging less, are overcrowded, and suffering from lack of in infrastructure.
"In "Mother's Nest OId Age Home", twenty-four women are packed into three rooms. There is hardly any ventilation; there is hardly any sunlight in the said Home, Even a Home called "The Second Chance: a Home for the Dying and the Destitute" is so packed with cots, that there is insufficient space for free movement of the inmates. Moreover, according to the Reports, there is awful lack of sufficient number of staff to look after the inmates. The lack of staff is clearly reflected in the unhygienic condition of these Homes. In some of the Homes, the window panes are broken, and in others the cupboards are hanging loose, and in some, mattresses are soiled beyond recognition. Furthermore, according to the same Report, but for the Police, the Department of Social Welfare has not inspected the Homes for over six months. According to the Manager of these Homes, the Homes are, in fact, inspected, only once in a year, and many a times the inspection is done at the time of registration", the bench was informed by amicus curiae Vasudha Nagaraj, who filed the interim report..
The Amicus curiae further conveyed that there is no segregation on the basis of gender. In one of the Homes visited by her, she was horrified to notice that elderly lady, who was bed-stricken, was sleeping in the same room, where there were two active elderly men. The physical safety of the women is a grave concern. Besides, because there is no Helpline, or Hotline Number available, the inmates of the Homes do not have access to the word outside, whereby they can share their plight, their concerns and their interests. Most of the Homes are filled by people, who have been abandoned. or who are destitute, or who are mentally challenged. Such persons are abandoned by the Police, and left at the doors of these Homes.
The Court on Monday sought the response of the state on the following aspects:
Firstly, with regard to the number of Homes which are registered, or not registered, which are functioning within Hyderabad/Secunderabad/Ranga Reddy District;
Secondly, with regard to the funding, that is being released by the Government for the maintenance, upkeep, and for providing the basic necessities and infrastructure in these Homes;
Thirdly, with regard to the number of times that these Homes have been inspected by the Officers of the concerned Department. In case, these Homes are not being inspected on a monthly basis, the reason as to why the Government is ignoring the plight of the elderly inmates.
The respondent state departments are further directed to immediately create a Helpline, or a Hotline. The Number of the Helpline/Hotline should be publicised through electronic and print media, and it should be made known to the inmates of all the Old Homes which are functioning not only in Hyderabad/ Secunderabad/Ranga Reddy District, but to all the Old Age Homes functioning in other parts of the State. If a complaint is received on the Helpline/Hotline, the same should be attended immediately, both by the Department, and by the concerned Police Station. In case, any action needs to be taken by the Police, with regard to any alleged offence, the Police shall take the action immediately, and the concerned Station House Officer (SHO) shall inform the concerned Superintendent of Police of the District with regard to allegation so made, and with regard to the investigation made, and finally with regard to the outcome of the investigation carried by him/her.
The respondents departments were further directed to explore the possibility of seeking the cooperation of the Corporate Sector under the Corporate Social Responsibility so that the Companies can take up and manage, or at least provide the best infrastructure that can be provided to the elderly inmates, keeping in mind their physical and mental needs.
Lastly, the bench directed the state to consider the possibility of having Old Homes along with Orphanage Children Homes, Shelter Homes, and other institutions, run under the Juvenile Justice Act, expressing the hope that if children are placed under the guidance and care of elderly people, such an arrangement will create a symbiotic relationship, between the elderly people, who will get a chance to guide the children, and the children who desperately require the guidance from the adults.
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