“They threw the body in the lawn outside and did not even bother to inform us. …We had admitted him to the de-addiction centre with a hope that he might be cured. We did not know that he would die like this,” said Daljeet Kaur, mother of the 20-year-old who returned from the de addiction center dead instead of cured.
The victim, Surinder Singh, was admitted to the drug de-addiction centre at Balongi, where he was the only patient, on Wednesday and after he died under mysterious circumstances at the centre, on Saturday morning. Victim’s mother alleged that her son was tortured to death by those running the centre and after he died they dumped him outside the house in Mohali. SP City Virenderpal Singh said that “The body had injury marks on the head, neck, arms and eyes. The centre has been closed since and managers are absconding.” He added, “For some reason, the center’s men rushed him to two private hospitals in Phase IV and VI yesterday but he was declared brought dead by doctors.”
The family has alleged that he was beaten to death by doctors at the centre although no FIR has been registered in the case so far. The police said a case would be registered only after the post-mortem report is received.
According to Dr. Harpal, Consultant Psychiatrist at Fortis Hospital, Mohali and resident Psychiatrist at neuropsychiatry rehabilitation centre, “A legal drug de-addiction centre have to certify it is competent to deal with the problem of de-addiction, “ There should be a doctor, a psychiatrist as well as paramedical staff available around the clock.
Nursing staff and an ambulance are also a prerequisite.” He added that most of the de addiction centres are places made to mint money from the families, who are trying hard to save their child’s future and their own social image. Most centers do not have the necessarily staff, equipment and environment and usually make the folly of taking in an addict and straightaway detoxifying him. Ideally the procedure has three phases — stabilization, reduction and then detoxification.
Not a single survey has been conducted in Punjab to ascertain the number of such illegal centers and the administration is yet to figure out the department which is responsible for the issue. According to an official at the health department of Chandigarh Administration, Drug de-addiction is not a health subject at all as it is within the social welfare department’s purview and the Social welfare department, which funds de addiction centers says that because the licensing is issued under the ‘mental health Act’, It becomes a health subject.
NGO’s, like that of Arvind Thakur, have helped bust 11 fake de-addiction centers and ‘rescued’ over 300 people. According to Dr. Harpal, “There is mushrooming of illegal rehab centers is because drug addiction is still something that evokes a strong social dislike for the addict and his family invariably dumps him at an unknown place, hoping for him to get better. Most of the families do so without checking the center’s doctors, patients conditions etc.”
There are over 34 de addiction centers in Punjab, but most do not have a permanent psychiatrist, warden or councilor. Patients in the illegal drug de addiction centers are routinely tortured, abused and humiliated and in the past found to be in blatant human rights violations. Cases of young boys hurting themselves, while trying to escape from such centers are common and so are the absconding center owners.