Letters to the editor

Readers’ comments: ‘Hindutva is in a minority even among Hindus’

A selection of readers’ opinions.

Parting shot

I take it that Sruthisagar Yamunan’s dignifying of Hindutva by describing it as “majoritarian” is accidental (“The Daily Fix: By attacking Hamid Ansari’s remarks on fears of Indian Muslims, BJP proves him right”). Hindutva is a minority even among us Hindus. And the Modi-Shah combine is just two individuals, even if they are in cahoots with some others. So, what we have, ruling our country today is a clique (and some henchmen). If there is clear and public recognition of that, there is some hope for our country. – Prabhu Guptara

Small victory

I would like to congratulate the author for his pragmatic and in-depth writing (“Congress’ Ahmed Patel euphoria will go the way of Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa”). I look forward to reading more articles from Rohan Venkataramakrishnan. – Nur Amin Haque

***

The Congress needs to wake up and organise a massive grassroots movement. How come they have MLAs and MPs who are willing to defect at the drop of a hat? Where is their ideological commitment, their loyalty to the party?

The Congress should not bother about the clout these leaders may have in the local community, it must identify the traitors and cleanse the party of them. It should then rebuild the party based on the ideologies of Nehru and Gandhi. This is imperative not only for the Congress but also for the country. – Deepa Rashmi

Taking on the powerful

Union Minister Babul Supriyo’s statements show that he has a soft corner for the son of his party colleague and is trying to make light of a very serious incident (“Why charge accused in Chandigarh stalking case with abduction, asks Union minister Babul Supriyo”). One may ask: Should no action be taken against the culprit, just because he is son of a state chief of the ruling party? Varnika Kundu, who represents the nation’s brave daughters fighting against harassment by men, must get justice without interference from the political dispensation. Otherwise, all the party’s slogans about women’s empowerment, such as Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao, will ring hollow and prove to be meaningless. – Samiul Hassan Quadri

Saffron setback

The results to the Kerala municipal polls show that the Modi wave has not reached the grassroots (“Kerala: BJP fails to win any seats in Mattanur municipal poll, LDF claims 28 out of 35 wards”). The BJP should realise that the stand they are taking (or in recent cases, not taking) are not working. The party leadership should realise that the strategy that has worked for them in northern states will not work her. As geography changes, people’s palates also change.

Education reform

Exams put immense burden on students and all they need to get good marks is rote learning (“ICSE to hold board exams for Class 5 and Class 8 starting 2018-19”). This makes the system a waste of time that creates robots out of students who are loaded with information but have no creativity, thereby defying the very purpose of education.

The best way to judge learning is not through a theory exam but by seeing what they students do with their creativity. When a child is interested in a particular field, all they need is some encouragement and they can outshine anyone in this world. – Parag Kumar

Channel talks

Rajeev Chandrasekhar’s claim that he has no role in the content put out by Republic TV is a joke (“‘It’s all about market share’: Arnab Goswami’s funder Rajeev Chandrasekhar on Republic TV and more”). This is a toxic channel and Arnab Goswami is a rabble-rouser. They don’t report news, they air slanted opinions and go after individuals without evidence. And they only target the Opposition. – Murali Gopalan

Same coin

The analogies in this article fail and there isn’t much difference in economic policies of BJP and the Congress (“Opinion: The BJP’s ideology and its growth mirrors that of the Muslim League in the 1930s”). Both parties are growth-oriented capitalist economies like most of the countries in the world are striving to be. The left-liberal ideologues are aware of this and hence seem to believe in breaking the majority Hindu vote of the BJP by raising casteist issues or inciting class warfare. This is what irks centrist people like me.

The foremost issue facing India today is arguably corruption and if driving it out is considered important, it is the BJP that is perceived as more capable on this front. – Sowmyanarayanan C

Testing times

The idea of schools holding off-site classes to complete students’ syllabus as schools remain shut because of the Gorkhaland agitation is laudable but all measures should be taken to ensure the safety of students, which is of utmost importance (“With no sign of strike ending, Darjeeling schools begin off-site classes to tutor board examinees”). The protesters do not seem to care if students miss out on their studies. Also, since not all schools can afford such off-site arrangements, maybe schools should join hands and pool in funds, but that also seems unlikely. – Siddhant Garud

Travel travails

I am a flight crew member and I always keep my official documents with me when I leave the hotel, especially in countries such as China or Germany (“Air India pilot writes to MEA alleging human rights violation by Saudi officials in Jeddah”). It is the crew member’s responsibility to show original documents and has nothing to do with human rights. – Abdullah Alghamdi

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
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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.