Erwadi and other ‘homes’ for the mentally ill

Thomas George


The horrific images of an airplane being flown into the twin towers of the World Trade Centre and the subsequent collapse of the towers has driven all other horrors away from the news media. But, at least in Tamilnadu, we have not yet got rid of the images of another tragedy that occurred in August – the pictures of mentally ill people burnt to death when the thatched sheds in which they were chained caught fire. The place was Erwadi in Ramanathapuram district. Many of us were unaware that such places existed, but we were forced to acknowledge, once again, what an uncaring society we live in. It appears that similar ‘homes’ for the mentally ill – flimsy shelters within which inmates are chained – exist all over India. The owners say they have no other option but to restrain patients in this manner as some of them are violent. It appears that these owners make a comfortable living.

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