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de-addiction centre sealed by officials

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Facility came to light after the death of an inmate; report says centre lacks basic infrastructure

A de-addiction centre at K.K. Nagar in Tiruchi, which was caught in the eye of a controversy after the recent death of an inmate, a former police constable under suspicious circumstances, was sealed on Thursday on the directions of the district administration.

District Collector S. Sivarasu issued the order after ascertaining that the centre had been functioning without a licence since its inception in 2014. “The centre was sealed as it had not obtained the permit from the Department of Social Defence, the licensing authority,” the Collector told.

The sealing of Life Care Centre was done under the supervision of the Joint Director of Health Services, Tiruchi, Samsath Begum. The order comes three days after the family members of Tamilselvan of Kandamangalam in Cuddalore district, a grade-II constable under suspension, suspected foul play in his death and demanded an investigation. They claimed that he was beaten to death on June 1, a few days after he was admitted to the centre. The body was exhumed in his native Kandamangalam village in Cuddalore district and samples were sent for testing to the Forensic Sciences Department, Chennai.

The Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment took cognisance of the issue and directed officials of the Department of Social Defence to hold an inquiry.

“The Tiruchi city has only two authorised de-addiction centres. The Ministry distributes funds through the Social Defence Department, which is the nodal authority. Therefore, it wanted to know if such an institution was being funded,” S. Venkataraman, Probation Officer, Department of Social Defence, Tiruchi. “The owner may have worked as a caretaker in one of the two centres before setting up Life Care Centre in 2014,” Mr. Venkataraman suspected.

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A patient at the centre was charged ₹ 18,000 per month and was not allowed to talk to his family, say inmates. They are kept there for a period of two to eight months, the first two months in chains.

Inmates beaten up

Quoting a policeman from Ariyalur admitted to the centre, V. Elangeeran, uncle of the constable, said patients were not fed properly and would be beaten if they spoke to anyone .

A report submitted by a team led by Niranjana Devi, Professor, Department of Psychiatry, K.A.P.V. Government Medical College, Tiruchi, after a spot inspection carried out under the directions of Institute of Mental Health, Chennai, stated that the centre lacked basic infrastructure.

“The centre did not have adequate space for 26 registered patients. The only male caretaker at the centre did not have the necessary qualifications, and had only passed Class 10. The centre has only two toilets and does not have any mats or beds for patients,” Dr. Niranjana said.

Meanwhile, the 26 patients who left the centre will be traced and a follow-up action would be taken based on the instructions from the Director, Institute of Mental Health, Chennai, officials said.

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