The absence of a mental asylum for patients who wander aloof to different places and authorities brings the need to establish suitable facilities high on agenda for the country’s authorities and policy makers who are yet to figure out their lines of jurisdiction to handle such cases which are noticeably on the rise
In the absence of a proper designated center, facility or asylum to direct and shelter such cases and the visibly absent laws which impair authorities or health bodies to take prompt actions the case of Kali Maya (name really not known) singly and uniquely hangs in the balance to baffle authorities.
In this case it is the Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) in Thimphu for it has almost been more than three weeks now that Kali Maya in her 30s has been putting up inside the recreation room of the Woman and Child Protection Unit (WCPU) of Thimphu police station.
Even the police officials are confused, where to sent or hand over since she does not have a place to go nor does she have any relatives where she can be handed over.
“We have done everything within our capacity to find out her relatives so that we can hand over her to the relatives. I have informed all the police stations across the country about her and to find out if there are any relatives of her but all in vain. The result was negative. We have asked help from the Bhutan Broadcasting Service (BBS) to announce about her,” officer in-charge (OC) of WCPU said.
“Where do we send her? It is risky to free her and moreover she is mentally unsound. If anything happens to her then we might be blamed. So with no option, we have kept her in our custody.”
The OC said that police have to decide and come up with something. “We can’t keep her like this for so long and even if we let her go, it is risky for her. Anything can happen to her and again police will be held responsible,” OC added.
She was brought to Thimphu police station on the evening of 18 October, after someone had complained that she was wandering in Thada goenba which is about 60 kilometer away from the capital town.
Police on questioning Kali Maya about herself, her family members or her whereabouts were not able to acquire much detail from her since she was not able to speak much and randomly changed her statements every now and then. Even her real name was not known. Kali Maya was the name she had once uttered to the police personnel.
Kali Maya is mentally unsound and wanders from place to place with nowhere to go.
This is the second time she visited the police station. As an interim measure and with no option, she was put inside the recreation room of WCPU.
Such cases are encountered time to time by police and most of such out of the blue cases encountered are mentally unsound people who apparently have nowhere to go. What most of them say is that they are confused.
Four such cases were reported with the WCPU.
Kali Maya was also sent to hospital for check up and the hospital record revealed that she had been brought earlier also that she was treated accordingly but she had refused to take medicine.
Absence of a mental asylum or orphanage house has been a major factor for such people to wander, suffer, and create difficulties for the police.
Meanwhile the health ministry has no plan to establish any such places for such people but said that the ministry will welcome those who plan to come up with one.
RENEW deals with domestic violence-affected women and children and the NCWC does not have any shelters to keep such people while the hospital does not have a mental asylum to accommodate such people.
Earlier the Director General of Department of Medical Services (DMS) with the Ministry of Health, Dr. Ugen Dophu, told The Bhutanese “it is not the job of police to look after mental people. They have enough crimes to handle but there should be some organization to look after such people. If they are sick, bring them to us, we will treat them for days and months, then after that basically they need care, social support and some occupational talents. Somebody should take that up. This is the issue but nobody is looking at that aspect”.
“As of now ministry does not have any plan to come up with mental asylum but we will welcome and support those who wants to start a shelter for such people,” the Director General said.
There might be more number of such cases but only few such cases get reported while many remain unreported, the WCPU OC said.
A plan to open a mental asylum in Bumthang was initiated by the ministry of health however the plan was dropped due to some reasons.
As of now, no one has approached the ministry with the proposal to open an asylum for such unfortunate people.
Whatever the circumstances might be, the question is, is it fair for Kali Maya to be kept in the custody of police and does the responsibility fall on police to look after such people? Who should take the responsibility? The answers to these questions remain unanswered.
The need for an asylum and orphanage is the only answer to such people but the question is who will come up with such initiatives?
Chencho Dema / Thimphu