The Daily Fix

The Daily Fix: What has the BJP done to set the CBI free from its parrot's cage?

Everything you need to know for the day (and a little more).

The Big Story: Cagey parrot

In the last few years of the corruption-tainted United Progressive Alliance government, it was not uncommon to hear complaints from Bharatiya Janata Party leaders about the ruling Congress’ willingness to use the Central Bureau of Investigation as a political tool. Congress Bureau of Investigation they called it. This impression was given additional ballast during Supreme Court hearings, in which Justice RM Lodha referred to the CBI as a “caged parrot”, forced to speak in its master’s voice.

Ironically, the same allegations are being leveled at the BJP government today. Just as West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee raises the anti-demonetisation pitch, the agency has moved in to arrest her ministers in the alleged Rose Valley chit fund scam in which thousands are said to have been cheated. As Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s battle with the Centre got louder, it was the CBI that shut down his office building and raided the Delhi Secretariat.

As former CBI director Joginder Singh told the Hindustan Times after Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power, “All governments work towards keeping CBI and other investigative agencies under their control.”

In the Rose Valley scam, as in numerous cases against political leaders during the UPA regime, it was not the legitimacy of the investigations themselves that came into question. Many of those seemed like genuine matters that needed looking into. Instead it was the timing of CBI actions, with not much movement on files for months until it became politically expedient for the investigation to move forward.

Under BJP rule, another trend seems to have emerged. The role of the CBI, already under much pressure because of a lack of officers and far too many cases, has expanded to cover any investigation that the Centre deems important – like the matter of cheating PayTM customers. Why else would former Delhi Lt Governor Najeev Jung have to transfer several cases from Delhi Police to the CBI before his departure?

The agency, political tool as it may be, remains one of the more reliable investigating bodies in India and, as a result, it is important that its independence and image be protected. After all its complaints about the “Congress Bureau of Investigation”, the BJP has done little to address this question or that other worrisome matter of whether the agency even has legal sanction to exist.

Responsible governments don’t just govern responsibly, they also create the structures to build integrity into the system. If the BJP truly meant its criticism about the pliability of the CBI and the recognises the need for an independent agency, it needs to do much more to ensure the body does not continue to sing the tune of whoever is in power in Delhi.

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Punditry

  1. Aradhana CV in the Ladies Finger trawls through 45 High Court judgments in rape cases to discover that judges continue to conform to “archaic and gender insensitive and patriarchal precedents” instead of simply looking at consent.
  2. The Income Tax Settlement Commission seems to have its fastest order ever, according to the Indian Express, which points out that it has granted Sahara India immunity from prosecution over documents that listed alleged pay-offs to several politicians including a reference to a former Gujarat “CM”.
  3. Sidddhartha Singh and Bidudatta Pradhan in Bloomberg fall back on their sources to conclude that 97% of banned notes have been returned to banks.
  4. “Everyone likes to view Shivaji through their own prism, however much the image may get distorted,” writes Girish Kuber in the Indian Express.

Giggles

Don’t miss

Aarefa Johari takes you to Gujarat, where dairy farmers from milk cooperatives have not been got cash for more than 50 days.

“’Dairy farmers need cash to buy essentials for their cattle and their homes, and I usually pay them every 10 days for all the milk they have delivered,’ said Tejabhai Tamaliya, the secretary of a milk cooperative in Surendranagar’s Diksar village. Tamaliya’s cooperative has 150 members, whom he needs to pay at the current rate of Rs 5.9 per kilo fat of milk – the amount of milk that would yield 1 kilo of fat. Since most of them haven’t been paid in 50 days, Tamaliya now owes his members a total of nearly Rs 15 lakh.

‘I have the money in my account, but a withdrawal limit of just Rs 24,000 a week is too little – and it’s not like the cooperative bank is able to give us even that much cash each week,’ said Tamaliya, who has made numerous trips to the Surendranagar District Cooperative Bank head office since November 10 to introduce mandali members to the banking system.”

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Removing the layers of complexity that weigh down mental health in rural India

Patients in rural areas of the country face several obstacles to get to treatment.

Two individuals, with sombre faces, are immersed in conversation in a sunlit classroom. This image is the theme across WHO’s 2017 campaign ‘Depression: let’s talk’ that aims to encourage people suffering from depression or anxiety to seek help and get assistance. The fact that depression is the theme of World Health Day 2017 indicates the growing global awareness of mental health. This intensification of the discourse on mental health unfortunately coincides with the global rise in mental illness. According to the latest estimates from WHO, more than 300 million people across the globe are suffering from depression, an increase of 18% between 2005 and 2015.

In India, the National Mental Health Survey of India, 2015-16, conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) revealed the prevalence of mental disorders in 13.7% of the surveyed population. The survey also highlighted that common mental disorders including depression, anxiety disorders and substance use disorders affect nearly 10% of the population, with 1 in 20 people in India suffering from depression. Perhaps the most crucial finding from this survey is the disclosure of a huge treatment gap that remains very high in our country and even worse in rural areas.

According to the National Mental Health Programme, basic psychiatric care is mandated to be provided in every primary health centre – the state run rural healthcare clinics that are the most basic units of India’s public health system. The government provides basic training for all primary health centre doctors, and pays for psychiatric medication to be stocked and available to patients. Despite this mandate, the implementation of mental health services in rural parts of the country continues to be riddled with difficulties:

Attitudinal barriers

In some rural parts of the country, a heavy social stigma exists against mental illness – this has been documented in many studies including the NIMHANS study mentioned earlier. Mental illness is considered to be the “possession of an evil spirit in an individual”. To rid the individual of this evil spirit, patients or family members rely on traditional healers or religious practitioners. Lack of awareness on mental disorders has led to further strengthening of this stigma. Most families refuse to acknowledge the presence of a mental disorder to save themselves from the discrimination in the community.

Lack of healthcare services

The average national deficit of trained psychiatrists in India is estimated to be 77% (0.2 psychiatrists per 1,00,000 population) – this shows the scale of the problem across rural and urban India. The absence of mental healthcare infrastructure compounds the public health problem as many individuals living with mental disorders remain untreated.

Economic burden

The scarcity of healthcare services also means that poor families have to travel great distances to get good mental healthcare. They are often unable to afford the cost of transportation to medical centres that provide treatment.

After focussed efforts towards awareness building on mental health in India, The Live Love Laugh Foundation (TLLLF), founded by Deepika Padukone, is steering its cause towards understanding mental health of rural India. TLLLF has joined forces with The Association of People with Disability (APD), a non-governmental organisation working in the field of disability for the last 57 years to work towards ensuring quality treatment for the rural population living with mental disorders.

APD’s intervention strategy starts with surveys to identify individuals suffering from mental illnesses. The identified individuals and families are then directed to the local Primary Healthcare Centres. In the background, APD capacity building programs work simultaneously to create awareness about mental illnesses amongst community workers (ASHA workers, Village Rehabilitation Workers and General Physicians) in the area. The whole complex process involves creating the social acceptance of mental health conditions and motivating them to approach healthcare specialists.

Participants of the program.
Participants of the program.

When mental health patients are finally free of social barriers and seeking help, APD also mobilises its network to make treatments accessible and affordable. The organisation coordinates psychiatrists’ visits to camps and local healthcare centres and ensures that the necessary medicines are well stocked and free medicines are available to the patients.

We spent a lot of money for treatment and travel. We visited Shivamogha Manasa and Dharwad Hospital for getting treatment. We were not able to continue the treatment for long as we are poor. We suffered economic burden because of the long- distance travel required for the treatment. Now we are getting quality psychiatric service near our village. We are getting free medication in taluk and Primary Healthcare Centres resulting in less economic stress.

— A parent's experience at an APD treatment camp.

In the two years TLLLF has partnered with APD, 892 and individuals with mental health concerns have been treated in the districts of Kolar, Davangere, Chikkaballapur and Bijapur in Karnataka. Over 4620 students participated in awareness building sessions. TLLLF and APD have also secured the participation of 810 community health workers including ASHA workers in the mental health awareness projects - a crucial victory as these workers play an important role in spreading awareness about health. Post treatment, 155 patients have resumed their previous occupations.

To mark World Mental Health Day, 2017, a team from TLLLF lead by Deepika Padukone visited program participants in the Davengere district.

Sessions on World Mental Health Day, 2017.
Sessions on World Mental Health Day, 2017.

In the face of a mental health crisis, it is essential to overcome the treatment gap present across the country, rural and urban. While awareness campaigns attempt to destigmatise mental disorders, policymakers need to make treatment accessible and cost effective. Until then, organisations like TLLLF and APD are doing what they can to create an environment that acknowledges and supports people who live with mental disorders. To know more, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of The Live Love Laugh Foundation and not by the Scroll editorial team.