Disabled rights activists flay new mental health bill
Calling it "apartheid" against mentally ill people, disabled rights activists Tuesday criticised the new mental health bill proposed by the health ministry, saying it would make it easier to forcibly confine a person into a mental asylum.
According to activists, the draft Mental Healthcare (MHC) Bill 2012, which is likely to be brought to the cabinet meeting soon, deprives liberty of disabled persons and favours medical professionals and psychiatrists.
The members say that under the new bill, the role of the judiciary has been taken off and a psychiatrist can decide whether a person can be put in mental asylum or not.
Under the present law, Mental Health Act (MHA) 1987, the judiciary has a major role in adjudicating every admission in mental asylums.
"There exists no lab test, radiological, body scanning, or other empirical methods for validation of mental illnesses. In this fragile situation, where questions are being raised about the scientific validity of psychiatry, the bill hands over power to deprive a person's liberty to psychiatry," said Javed Abidi of the Disabled Rights Group.
Abidi says that under the new law, it has been proposed to do away with muscle relaxants and anaesthesia during Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT).
"This is no less than torture, like giving give electric shocks to treat a person without giving anaesthesia. We are strictly against it," he said.
Bhargavi Davar, co-chair of national Alliance on Access to Justice for People with Mental Illness (NAAJMI), said: "Under the proposed bill, you can forcibly keep a person inside a private asylum for two months, renewable after a day's parole. The business interest of private players in the metal health system is very evident."
The bill also calls for setting up of more mental asylums.
The activists demanded more discussion on the bill before it goes to cabinet.
"It is an obnoxious piece of paper and we will burn it tomorrow outside health ministry to observe the Metal Health Day Thursday," she said.