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Inmates Tortured, Starved and Sexually Abused Inside Drug Rehab Centres in Delhi, Study Reveals

Minors were found in large numbers inside at least 90 percent of the institutions investigated, living in squalid conditions and essentially in captivity, without the agency to provide consent for the same.

Rakhi Bose | News18.com

Updated:June 26, 2018, 7:33 PM IST
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Inmates Tortured, Starved and Sexually Abused Inside Drug Rehab Centres in Delhi, Study Reveals
Minors were found in large numbers inside at least 90 percent of the institutions investigated, living in squalid conditions and essentially in captivity, without the agency to provide consent for the same.
New Delhi: The Delhi State Legal Services Authority recently submitted a report to the Delhi High Court that has revealed gross abuses against inmates inside the drug de-addiction centres or rehabs in the capital.

The study, which investigated the conditions of 96 such centres in NCR Delhi, found that in most centres, inmates were subjected to physical and emotional torture, unhygienic living spaces, and even sexual exploitation.

‘Torture, Sexual Harassment, HIV’

Inmates in at least 25 centres were found to be subjected to beatings and torture.

The report notes several tragic stories from these de-addiction centres. In Ashritha Foundation, an inmate had died allegedly after excessive torture at the hands of the authorities at the centre.

Another inmate died after he was injected the wrong medicine.

An inmate from Surya Kiran Foundation also alleged that a staff member sought sexual favours from the inmates. However, the findings of the study claim that more such instances were reported.

There were also allegations from the same institute that one of the kitchen staff had tested HIV+ but continued to work in the kitchen where he would handle cutlery and chop vegetables, increasing the risk of infecting the inmates.

In some centres like Generation Care Foundation, the inmates were made to do daily chores and were starved when they failed to complete their tasks. In fact, starving was found to be one of the ways to torture inmates.

Most of these foundations charge from Rs 5,000 to Rs 10,000 for the ‘treatment’.

‘Held Captive’

In every centre, one or more inmates complained of being held against their will. Some even said that they were being held captive by family or others due to property disputes, personal enmity or other personal gains. An inmate, 70-year-old Braham Dev, alleged that his son had held him captive in a de-addiction centre in order to dupe him off his Rs 70,000 pension.

Minors were found in large numbers inside at least 90 percent of the institutions investigated, living in squalid conditions and essentially in captivity, without the agency to provide consent for the same.

Almost 80 percent of the institutions had inadequate bathrooms and poor sanitation and ventilation.

According to the report, inmates inside centres in North Delhi were allegedly being kept like 'slaves’ and that the centres resembled prisons.

Some prohibited the families of the inmates from meeting them for the first 40 days of their captivity. And some even refused to let go of inmates to families seeking to take them home, asking for exorbitant sums of money in exchange, all in the name of fixed fee.

Though some centres had visting doctors, inmates in most institutions reported that a lack of basic healthcare and medical facilities. Inmates in at least 40 percent of the centres investigated reported that no doctor ever visited.

Even when they did, the visits were described as an ‘eye wash’.

The report also found the centres lacking in trained staff, CCTV or even beds for the inmates to sleep on. However, what the deaddiction centres did offer inmates, it seem, are bidis and cigarettes once or twice a day.

Delhi's Drug Problem

Delhi has been experiencing a growing drug menace, with an increase in smuggling and consumption of substances such as cocaine, heroin and brown sugar. The demand for party drugs such as LSD and Ecstasy (MDMA) have also gone up.

The problem is acute as addicts start abusing substances from a young age.

In March 2018, findings by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment claimed that almost 90 percent of Delhi’s street kids were addicted to substances including tobacco and alcohol. The capital recorded 46,410 cases of drug abuse by children and minors in 2017, a New Indian Express report cited.

The extensive DSLSA report was submitted in Delhi HC as part of a PIL in favour of treating deaddiction centres under the Mental Health Act (MHA) 2017 instead of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS), 1985. The former deals more with the smuggling and supply part of narcotic substances and it is the same law that regulates the use and abuse of substances in Punjab.

However, the PIL in Delhi HC argues that the NDPS does not include tobacco, alcohol as ‘narcotic’ and thus an individual abusing either could not legally be booked under NDPA.

The MHA 2017 recognizes deaddiction centres in Delhi as mental health organisations.

Reacting to the findings, the HC bench headed by justices Justice S Muralidhar and Justice IS Mehta called it ‘shocking’ and ordered Delhi Police to look into the matter. It has fixed July 12 as the date for the next hearing.

The draft for the protection of the rights of inmates within such facilities was floated by the Delhi government in May this year.

It outlined a set of guidelines that deaddiction centres need to follow in order to be operate legally. These included being connected to a hospital, providing daily doctor consultations to the inmates, and use of progressive ways to treat substance.

It is currently awaiting approval form the health minister as well as Delhi LG before the final notification is issued with the approval of Delhi State Mental Health Authority.

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