Court orders ICR DA to provide psychosocial support to Lekhi CCC inmates

ITANAGAR, Sep 10: The Itanagar bench of the Gauhati High Court on Thursday directed the Itanagar capital region (ICR) district administration to take steps for providing psychosocial support to the inmates at the Covid care centre (CCC) in Lekhi, as provided in clause 15.0 of the guidelines.

While the court closed the public interest litigation (PIL) after a fact-finding committee reported that the management of the Lekhi CCC is in order, except in respect of providing psychosocial support system, it granted liberty to the petitioner to approach the court again if any anomalies are brought to light in the management of the CCC in question, if so advised.

The counsel for the petitioner, advocate M Mili said, “I am very pleased with the court’s direction to the respondent authorities to take necessary steps for providing psychosocial support system to the inmates. It is a matter of right to life. Initially, there were complaints regarding several matters. However, after the court’s intervention, things seem to have changed for the better. I hope the court’s direction is implemented in toto. Additionally, we have been given the liberty to approach again of any anomalies are brought to light again.”

Earlier, a PIL under Article 226 of the constitution of India had been filed by the petitioner, raising concern that Covid-19 positive patients quarantined at the Lekhi CCC were not being provided with a hygienic environment or quality meals, there was no psychosocial support system for the inmates, no sanitation workers, no potable water and adequate bed sheets, etc.

The health department had in its affidavit-in-opposition stated that the management of the CCC is under the control of the ICR DC, who acts as the chairman of the district disaster management authority.

The DC had also contended that the CCC is being managed as per the guidelines recommended by the WHO, as well as the guidelines issued by the National Centre for Diseases Control.

In view of the claims and counter-claims made by the contesting parties, the court had constituted a fact-finding committee, comprising five members, to carry out ground assessment on the functioning and maintenance of the CCC.

The committee submitted its report on 10 September, according to which, everything is in order at the Lekhi CCC and it is being managed in accordance with the guidelines, except providing psychosocial support to the inmates.

The fact-finding committee stated: “Due to lack of counselling psychologists, psychological support and counselling is given only through tele-counselling on need basis.”

According to the petitioner, as per the guidelines for quarantine facilities for Covid-19, issued by the director general of the health & family welfare ministry, Clause 15.0 states: “As on arrival, there might be an obvious sense of psychological fear and panic among all the quarantined people and some of the involved stakeholders like healthcare professionals/staffs, including doctors, security personnel, etc. An interpersonal communication needs to made to all of them one after another in groups by a psychiatrist team initially and later on with individual counselling sessions… If needed, referral to be made to psychiatrist/psychological team. If there is fear in the surrounding community, it needs to be addressed.”