5,000 mentally ill children on the streets of Hyderabad, govt not interested, says NGO

Many of these children have been abandoned by their families and are vulnerable to harassment.
5,000 mentally ill children on the streets of Hyderabad, govt not interested, says NGO
5,000 mentally ill children on the streets of Hyderabad, govt not interested, says NGO
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Gauri*, a 14-year-old, wears the same green dress for nearly a week and walks up and down the streets of Begumpet, Hyderabad, while her grandmother works in a small restaurant.

“My son is an alcoholic and my granddaughter, Gauri, is mentally ill. My son has not come home in five days this time...usually he comes back after two days. But I am worried about Gauri, I am too old to take care of her now,” says Kaamaiah*, Gauri's grandmother.

Gauri's mother died when she was six years old and her father has not cared for her since then. It is her grandmother who has been looking after the child.

“I earn just enough to feed her and me. But now she is growing up, she will have expenses. I am worried about how I will manage,” the grandmother says.

During the time Kaamiah works at the restaurant, Gauri is on her own in the streets.

Kaamaiah has now decided to contact NGOs who can take care of her granddaughter.

This, unfortunately, is the situation for several mentally ill children in Telangana.

“There are nearly a lakh mentally ill children in Telangana. 50% of these children are on the streets and on their own. Most of them are abandoned by their family or are homeless,” says MS Reddy, Secretary of Sadhana Institute for the Intellectually Impaired, a Hyderabad-based NGO which works for the welfare of mentally ill children.

According to the NGO, nearly 5,000 mentally ill children are on the streets in Hyderabad alone and are vulnerable to several kinds of harassment.

The Sadhana Institute accommodates 60 students who stay in their boarding school, while another 90 students come for daily classes.

“Out of those 60 students, 20 have been abandoned by their family and we are taking care of them. The rest belong to upper middle class families and are taken to visit their home once in a while. Even this, we have to request the families to do. They think their responsibility ends with sending money,” he says.

Reddy claims that the government has always been neglecting mentally ill children and focusing on those with other disabilities.

“There are government hostels for visually impaired students, but there are no such facilities for mentally ill children. The government only provides Rs.1500 for each of these children but that is not enough. They have their own medical expenses,” he says.

According to Reddy, more than 50,000 mentally ill children across Telangana have no access to proper medical care as they don't have anyone to take care of them.

“The numbers are much higher in rural areas as not every district has NGOs for mentally ill children,” he says.

The apathy shown by the parents is a big stumbling block.

“Ours is like a boarding school for these children whose parents are working or are unable to take care of them. Usually, for able children who go to boarding schools, the parents wait for the summer vacation eagerly to see them. But, this is not the case for these kids. I have to call the parents and ask them to come and meet the children or take them home for a few days. But very few actually come and spend time. The rest of the parents give excuses,” he shares.

Reddy says that only about a quarter of such families with mentally ill children in the city come forward and make the effort to take care of their wards.

“Every day, we get a minimum of four calls from people saying some child is walking in the streets and seems mentally ill, but we cannot go and rescue them. There is a procedure that we have to follow. They need to have a disability certificate and only then can we help them. Because of this stipulation, even we are helpless,” Reddy says.

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