Dear Arvind Kejriwal
Your outrage over atrocious living conditions at Delhi Government-run Asha Kiran shelter for the mentally challenged is justified. However, this has been the state of things at this mental asylum for nearly a decade now, most recently brought to your notice in 2015 by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG).
What have you done since the CAG report to improve conditions at this notorious welfare home? Looks like your government hasn’t shown much interest in the well-being of vulnerable residents at this place.
The Rohini-based shelter comes under Delhi’s Department of Social Welfare, which as we have come to know is presently being looked after by your trusted aide and deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia. While Sisodia enjoys a reputation for dropping in on government schools in order to check how well they are being run, how many times has he visited Asha Kiran which has a well-documented history of neglect?
Please consider these statistics, which you are already aware of. Over 600 residents have died due to various reasons since 2001, with 11 dying in the last two months itself. Overcrowding has been a big problem at this home all along, as pointed out by the CAG report which in 2015 noted that over 900 inmates were living here against legally permissible 350.
A site visit by Delhi Commission for Women chairperson Swati Maliwal threw light on the health hazard the entire place poses to its resident. How else would you dub the allegation of sick inmates being forced to relieve themselves in the corridors just because the toilets were too filthy?
Some of the findings such as mentally challenged female residents being forced to line up naked outside shower-rooms, or being made to do physical labour just make a joke out of government welfare.
“Nudity was rampant. Shockingly, nude women were roaming around in the corridors even as there are CCTV cameras installed there which are being monitored by male staff,” the DCW chairperson, Maliwal, was quoted as saying.
— Pankaj Jain (@PankClick) February 6, 2017
(Source: Twitter/Pankaj Jain)
Mr Kejriwal, while your seeking an expeditious response from your government secretary on Asha Kiran is commendable, it may have come a dozen-odd deaths too late. You could have acted in 2015 itself, when the CAG slapped the wrist of authorities for negligence as to the way the shelter was being managed.
We understand that you have been busy politically since winning power in Delhi, as you have been trying to expand your party’s national footprint. But Delhiites, who trusted you with a nearly full majority even after you had abandoned them in 2013, are the ones who are paying the price of your political ambitions. Or it seems so!
In the past, you have blamed the BJP-led central government of sabotaging the governance in Delhi by nagging you on every major decision. But in this instance, you have got nobody to blame but yourself.
One an ending note, I would like to wish you all the best for Punjab. But don’t forget that you are there because Delhi gave you a second chance.