Recently, the Supreme Court of India was moved by the plight of the chained mentally ill patients in a “faith-healing asylum” at Badaun, Uttar Pradesh and ordered the Uttar Pradesh government to take urgent measures to address the horrible situation. Chaining of such patients amounts to violation of the Mental Health Care Act of 2017 and the right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution. Notably, 14% of India is in need of active mental health interventions. This issue calls for a relook at the status of mental health and healthcare in India.
The COVID-19 crisis has exposed our fragility, with health systems strained and social safety nets stretched to the limit. The economic downturn caused by the global pandemic may drive more people to substance abuse or leave them vulnerable to involvement in drug trafficking and related crime. According to the World Drug Report, 2020 published by UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) recently, about 269 million people used drugs in 2018, which was 30% more than the 2009 figure, with adolescents and young adults accounting for the largest share of users and also, it has highlighted the possible consequences of COVID-19 on the production, supply and consumption of illicit drugs. An Annual Action Plan for 2020-21 called Nasha Mukt Bharat was e-launched for the 272 Most Affected Districts by Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment on the occasion of “International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking”.
The recent series of alleged dowry deaths in Kerala has raised eyebrows and shed light on the dowry system in India which is still prevalent despite several attempts to ban it. Dowry deaths accounted for 40% to 50% of homicides in the country for almost a decade from 1999 to 2018. Dowry has been a part of the socio-economic fabric of Indian society and a burning issue since time immemorial. Dowry related deaths and domestic violence are rampant. Despite India’s improvement in socio-economic indicators, dowry as a social malady has not been eradicated. Therefore, the various aspects of this issue must be looked into and rather than finding ad hoc solutions to the problem, long-term effective measures should be taken to address the issue.
Violence against women in India is an issue deeply rooted in societal norms and economic dependence. Female feticide, domestic violence, sexual harassment and other forms of gender-based violence constitute the reality of most girls’ and women’s lives in India. During the first four phases of the COVID-19-related lockdown, Indian women filed more domestic violence complaints than recorded in a similar period in the last 10 years. But even this unusual spurt is only the tip of the iceberg as 86% of women who experience domestic violence do not seek help in India.
In January 2020, the Supreme Court sought response from the health ministry and environment ministry to the Public Interest Litigation seeking the right to euthanasia for persons suffering from rabies. This petition points out the limitations of SC’s 2018 judgement that provided for guidelines for passive euthanasia.