Woman torture charge against rehab centre – Owners on run after mother files FIR

The Telegraph

MRINALINI SHARMA

Half Way Home at Pradhannagar in Siliguri. Picture by Kundan Yolmo

Siliguri, May 19: Two employees of a private rehabilitation centre in Siliguri were arrested yesterday after a woman lodged a complaint that her mentally-unstable daughter was physically tortured throughout her four-and-a-half-month stay there for treatment.

Asim Samanta and Jiten Roy were arrested after the alleged victim’s mother. Malathi Kundu,filed an FIR.

Malathi has named Bappaditya Ghosh and his wife Swarnali, the owners of Half Way Home, as the accused.

The couple is absconding.

The issue came to light after Malathi, a resident of Samar Nagar, on the outskirts of Siliguri approached the Association for Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR) last week seeking help to take legal action against the rehabilitation centre.

The letterhead of the centre in Pradhannagar, which has been operating for the past four years, says Half Way Home is engaged in “therapeutic healing for drug/alcohol dependent” and those with “mild psychological problems (male and female)”.

Malathi said her daughter Suvarna (name changed) had been admitted to the rehabilitation centre on December 25 last year.

She said Suvarna had developed some psychiatric problems because of the physical and mental torture at her husband’s home at Buxirhaat in Cooch Behar.

Malathi is a vegetable seller at the local market and as she is financially weak. The woman alleged that whenever she went to visit her daughter, the staff at the shelter allowed her to meet Suvarna for barely two to three minutes citing medical reasons.

“I never got a proper reply whenever I inquired about the doctor treating my daughter. They just told me she was receiving good treatment and would recuperate soon. Although my daughter complained that she was being beaten up during my earlier visits, I did not believe her because she is mentally unsound,” Malathi said.

Malathi changed her mind on May 3, when she went to meet Suvarna and saw bruises on her daughter’s face and body.

“I saw that she had injuries near her eyes and all over her body. I rushed immediately to the APDR office and came back to the centre with some of the members,” Malathi said.

The APDR used to help her pay the centre Rs 5,200 a month as a fee. When the APDR confronted the centre’s owners, they denied the charge of assault, Malathi said.

“When we asked them to show the medical records of Suvarna and also the psychiatrist who was treating her, they failed to produce any documents. We asked Suvarna to show us who used to beat her and she pointed to one of the two employees,” said Abhiranjan Bhaduri, the APDR secretary in Siliguri.

Bhaduri alleged that Suvarna never received treatment from any psychiatrist during her stay at the shelter.

“The centre authorities showed us a psychiatrist’s prescription note to show that he had checked her on May 6. But when we insisted on getting her discharged, the centre asked us to come again on May 10. When we went there, they provided us with a discharge certificate without the signature of the psychiatrist who was supposedly treating her. This proves she had not received treatment from any psychiatrist during her stay. We took her from there and admitted her to Siliguri district hospital that day,” Bhaduri said.

The APDR said it later found out that the centre did not have the required permission from the health department to run such a home for treatment of drug/alcohol addiction cases.

On May 16, the APDR lodged a complaint with the director of health services at Swasthya Bhavan, Calcutta, complaining about the centre and demanding action.

“We don’t give licence to such rehabilitation centres. I will start an inquiry once I receive a complaint in writing,” said Subir Bhowmik, the Darjeeling district chief medical officer of health.

“She (the victim) has no internal injuries. She has received external injuries for which we are treating her. The doctor treating her will refer her to a psychiatrist,” said Sanjib Majumdar, the Siliguri district hospital superintendent said.

Hospital sources said there was no psychiatrist at the hospital at present and the doctors would send her to North Bengal Medical College and Hospital for psychiatric treatment.

Inmates at Half Way Home said there had been no caretaker at the centre since yesterday and they were cooking food themselves.

Police authorities said they are trying to track the absconding owners.

“Investigation has started and we have arrested two employees on basis of the FIR. We are also trying to track the two absconding owners,” said O.G. Pal, the deputy commissioner of police for Siliguri.

The arrested duo, Samanta and Roy, were remanded in jail custody for 14 days by a court here yesterday.

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