Nanjangud (Karnataka): Left in the wild to get killed, many of them do not know where they came from and who they are. The shelter home Karunalaya, on the edge of Karnataka's Bandipur Tiger Reserve, provides the 55-odd mentally challenged to eke out their existence with some dignity. "These unfortunate people are immune from hope and despair. They are not waiting for anyone, as no one will come to take them back home," said Sister Mary, who shared her thoughts with this IANS correspondent.
Situated 225 km southeast of Bangalore, Karunalaya is home to "those dumped on the highway by truck drivers, who are paid to get rid off unwanted people". These people are left in the wild to fend for themselves. Some have even got killed by wild animals in the past. Some were brought here by compassionate souls, while some were dumped on the road in the wildlife sanctuary to fend for themselves by truck drivers, explained an official of the hospital-cum-care centre for the mentally challenged.
The inmates come from Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and even from Orissa and West Bengal. The centre, run by seven Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo congregation, started its journey with a dispensary before turning into a full-fledged hospital, and now, a shelter for the mentally disabled. Most inmates do not know any language. One female spoke what sounded like Bangla, while another could mutter a few words in Hindi. "Many were sexually abused and left in the lurch before being brought here. Two kids born here were sent to an orphanage," a functionary explained.
The Karnataka shelter home provides the 55-odd mentally challenged to eke out their existence with some dignity.
The construction work on a new home for them continues. There are hurdles and, of course, resource crunch is a chronic deterrent, she added. The inmates have to be taken care with utmost love. "Some of them have to be fed, cajoled, washed regularly and counselled. This is a regular routine. We do try to keep them busy in some work also, but constant supervision is necessary," said Sister Mary.
With a new home, these inmates now have a new identity as well. "They do not have a name or an identity, so we give them a name for administrative convenience," Sister Mary said.
Located alongside the highway to Ooty in the verdent green, the Karunalaya centre is popular with villagers as the first halt for medicare. "For deliveries, women now choose the government hospitals as there are a whole lot of benefits. We provide various other facilities which are sadly lacking in the area. Every week we get a few cases of people with mental problems," said a doctor in-charge.
The original plan was to provide a decent hospital with modern facilities, but with the number of mentally challenged people increasing, our activities are now focussed on their needs, Sister Mary added. "Due to social or family pressure, changing life styles and stress, and of course exploitation of women in various ways, the need for such centres is increasing," Mukta, a social activist, told IANS.