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Make People Aware, So They Can Avail Of NIMHANS Facilities: Karnataka HC To Govt

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The Karnataka High Court has asked State Government to give adequate publicity to the various facilities extended by NIMHANS so that large number of citizens can take benefit of that while appreciating the efforts of National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences in reaching out to affected people amid Covid19 pandemic and lockdown. 

A bench of Justice Abhay S. Oka and Justice B.B. Nagarathna, was hearing a Suo Motu petition initiated on various issues, condition of migrant workers in the State during lockdown, incidents of domestic violence and issue of people suffering from mental illness during the lockdown and on the last hearing court had asked Dr. Naveen Kumar who is looking after the Helplines provided by the NIMHANS to appear.

Dr.Naveen Kumar who represents National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS), appeared before the Court via Video Conferencing, and informed that Helplines have been set up by NIMHANS which work through Interactive Voice Response System (IVRS) and around 300 workers are doing counseling through these IVRS lines to the following four categories of people in twenty-one States :

·             Adolescents

·             Normal adults 

·             Elderly 

·             Women affected by domestic violence. 

Dr Naveen Kumar informed the Court that the facility of extensive counselling is also being provided to a large number of migrants and to those who are quarantined in institutions or are in isolation. In fact, he pointed out that in the State of Karnataka, counselling has been given to 21,000 migrant workers. He states that counselling is extended to those who are quarantined in institutions as well as those who are in isolation. He states that, a team of NIMHANS along with a team of BBMP, visited 26 camps in the State and counselling was done to about 900 migrants. He pointed out that so far, consultation  has been provided to about 52,000 people. He added that articles are being regularly published by NIMHANS newspapers on various issues and news bulletins are being published on the website and very shortly, articles will also be published on the issue of withdrawal symptoms faced by some persons.

The Counsel on behalf of People’s Union for Civil Liberties suggested that the services being provided by NIMHANS should be extended to citizens who are residing in Containment Zones. The Court noted that it will be appropriate for the State Government to give adequate publicity to the various facilities extended by NIMHANS so that a large number of citizens can take benefit of that.

Issue of migrants during lockdown: The Court had previously noted that directions have been issued on the issue of identification of the migrants who are in the streets, beggars, homeless persons and other vulnerable sections of the society who are in the city without any shelter, including a direction to BBMP to identify such persons.

The Commissioner of BBMP on 16th April, 2020 passed the following directions:

·             The Zonal Joint Commissioners with the help of marshals and KSTDC buses will identify the migrants, homeless and other poor people who are on the roads in the city without shelter and food. 

·             These people will be respectfully picked up and taken to the nearest hostels which have been declared as relief centres and be provided with proper accommodation, food and health facilities at the centres. 

·             The action will continue till all such migrant workers are identified in the city and lodged in the shelter homes. 

The Court in the last hearing had directed the State Government to place on record all the reports submitted by the Chief Marshal of BBMP and reports of all the Zonal Joint Commissioners and the Zonal Joint Commissioners had been directed to submit reports about the steps taken to identify the homeless persons.

The Court had also asked the State Government to clarify if in the present situation, the homeless people can be allowed to stay on streets, because if persons continue to stay on streets, there will be a violation of norms including the norms of social distancing. Therefore, BBMP and the State Government must also disclose whether any effort is being made to ascertain these people on the streets have symptoms of infection of corona virus.

The Court noted that none of the submissions that have been filed either by BBMP or by the State Government, talk about any organized and systematic efforts being to find out the migrants and other homeless people on the streets, made after 11th April, 2020  The reports of the Chief Marshal Officer has indicated that the Marshals, are not aware of what exactly are they expected to do.

The Court’s order from 24th April, 2020 had directed the Chief Marshal Officer and also the Zonal Joint Commissioners to submit reports about the steps taken to identify the homeless persons along with the Zonal Joint Commissioners being directed to elaborate as to why migrants were not willing to move into the Government accommodation, which have not been submitted.

The Court has asked the Zonal Joint Commissioners to state whether the Marshals were made aware of what they are expected to do in the light of Government circulars, and the State to clarify whether people who are staying on the streets can continue to stay on the streets in the present condition. 

The Court was informed by Members of the Bar that there are persons who have shelter but do not have ration cards and  have not received ration kits in terms of the Policy of the State Government, in response to which the Court has asked them to communicate specific areas or localities where food kits or ration kits have not been delivered to the Additional Government Advocate which will help enable the Government or BBMP to take necessary action

The Court in its last order on April 24th had noted that according to the  Karnataka Municipal Corporations (Ward Committee) Rules, 2016, Disaster Management Cells at ward level need to be formed by the Chairperson of Ward Committees, and had also directed the State Government to state whether such Disaster Management Cells at ward levels have been established as presence of such Disaster Management Cells will be helpful to deal with the present situation created by the spread of corona virus.

The Court noted that the Disaster Management Cells in each of the Wards across all Zones in Bengaluru have been constituted and has directed  the Additional Chief Secretary of the Urban Development Department to ensure that the directions are issued to the Disaster Management Cells at Ward level to perform certain duties and consider if these Disaster Management Cells can be involved in locating homeless people on the streets.

The Court has directed the following reports to be placed for its perusal:

·             Detailed report of compliance of the directions issued by himself on 11th April, 2020 to BBMP.- on or before 4 th May, 2020. 13. 

·             Action taken by the Municipal Corporation at Mysuru due to presence of large number of Covid-19 positive cases in the district.

·             Reply by Additional Advocate General regarding any machinery being set up by State Government at the grass root level, taluk level and district level to address the grievances of the farmers.

·             Response of State Government on the issue of improving the functioning of the Hunger Helplines and supply of gas cylinders

The Court has scheduled its next hearing on May 5th, when it will consider the issue of the issue of improving the functioning of the Hunger Helplines, the issue of supply of gas cylinders, the issue of grant of exemption to the farmers from the payment of toll. And will also issue appropriate directions on issues being faced by farmers.

-India Legal Bureau

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