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After 12 deaths, Jaipur home to finally get treated water

The visits as well as the clean-up have come after the death of 12 inmates at the home, eight of them female, allegedly from a bacterial infection.

Written by Mahim Pratap Singh | Jamdoli (jaipur) |
Updated: May 2, 2016 9:45:15 am
Jaipur, Vimandit Grih, special homes, government-run home, government-run special home, india news At the Jamdoli hostel

For the hundred-odd boys in Hostel No. 1 of the government-run home for persons with special needs, Vimandit Grih, here, Saturday is a new day. An afternoon music class is keeping them busy amid visits by politicians, activists and journalists. Outside, three staff members are emptying a large water tank, one bucketful at a time.

The visits as well as the clean-up have come after the death of 12 inmates at the home, eight of them female, allegedly from a bacterial infection. Seven of those who died were children. Nineteen others, who started falling ill 14 days ago, remain sick.

On Sunday, the Centre sent a five-member team, including a senior paediatrician, an epidemiologist and a microbiologist, to assist the state government in investigating the cause of the deaths. Union Health Minister J P Nadda also spoke to state health minister Rajendra Rathore.

Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Arun Chaturvedi denied contamination, “in the groundwater or the water used for drinking at the time”. “We have just received reports of analysis of the water samples. The infection was brought in by a staff member, Rahul, from outside. We believe it was through him that the infection spread to the children.”

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Rahul, a staffer who doesn’t stay on the premises of the home, is himself ill and in hospital. Vimandit Grih is the only government-run mental health and rehabilitation home in Rajasthan, with 102 male and 92 female inmates. It moved to its existing address, with room to accommodate many more than its current strength, less than a year ago. The government allocates Rs 2,000 a month for each inmate.
After news of the deaths made headlines, the female inmates were moved to a third hostel building from Hostel No. 2. Most of the inmates who died belonged to this hostel.

Water for the entire facility is drawn using a borewell. According to people living around the home, the groundwater has flouride contamination, a claim refuted by Chaturvedi on Sunday. All staff members told The Indian Express though that they get water from home.

Chaturvedi also said the centre would now get a reverse osmosis facility to treat water. He said nursing staff strength was being increased and sanitary measures enhanced. “Since the incident, we have installed three water coolers, and got the windows covered by green shades to protect the children from direct sunlight. We have also directed staff to use hand sanitisers.”

Apart from that, the centre would have a round-the-clock dispensary as well as an ambulance. Besides the administration staff, the facility has 36 caregivers and 20 special educators. A doctor and a psychiatrist are present 9 am to 3 pm. Chaturvedi said together the facility has a staff strength of around hundred.

The first case of illness was reported on April 16, when an eight-year-old girl was admitted to hospital after experiencing “projectile vomiting” and diarrhoea. Expressing shock at the deaths, the facility’s staff said the institute has “never had such a misfortune” in its over four-decade history.

“We don’t really know what happened. But infection caused by contaminated water or food clearly had a role to play,” said Nupur Chaturvedi, the resident doctor who was among the six suspended by the state government after the deaths. The psychiatrist and superintendent of the home have also been suspended.

Located about 15 km from the city, the facility has three hostel blocks, a kitchen and an administrative block, secured by a huge iron gate. Outside the gated compound are a few staff quarters and a police chowki.

The concrete structure, with barely any green cover in or around it, swelters in the summer heat. One water cooler is installed at the entrance to the male hostel block. Inside there are only ceiling fans.
Inside the men’s hostel block (this correspondent could not visit the female section), inmates, between the ages of six and 30, are largely left to their own devices. Some are swaying to the music, others roam around in corridors.

There are no beds in the dormitories, the inmates sleep on cotton mattresses spread on the floor. An official of the Social Justice Department said this was to prevent chances of their falling off beds and hurting themselves.

Before being moved to Jamdoli, the facility was housed in Sethi Colony in the middle of Jaipur. Experts say the old address was far more appropriate for a facility catering to persons with special needs.
“Such facilities should be inside a city so that emergency situations can be handled promptly,” said Deepak Kalra, former chairperson of the State Commission for the Protection of Child Rights. “This place is… out of sight, out of mind. It’s like a prison. They have just moved the children away from the city and locked them up in this place.”

The government, however, says the facility was shifted as part of a plan. “The earlier place was smaller and ad-hoc in a way. It could hold fewer inmates. The new location was systematically planned and designed… The old facility was 6 km from the main hospitals, the new one is 10 km, but it has a resident vehicle, which the old one did not have,” Chaturvedi said.

The minister also claimed that he regulary inspects the home, and last came only a month ago. “I have been visiting the place for the last 12 years, even when I was not a minister. I have been going with my family, children.”

Female inmates standing outside their hostel block, with child rights activists, complained about the deteriorating quality of food. While senior staff said milk and buttermilk were regularly provided, one of them said, “No milk, no tea, no buttermilk. They have stopped everything.” They have heard of the children who fell ill, she said. “They drank dirty water.”

However, the deaths may be soon forgotten. “Most of the children here are either orphans or their parents are unknown. The others are usually from poor families. Only one is from a well-to-do family, that of a college professor,” said a staff member.

An official in the Social Justice Department said of the 12 who died, the parents of only one girl had contacted them. “They too said they only wanted to see her face, and then went away. We performed their last rites based on their faith.”

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