With political parties across Tamil Nadu calling for a thorough probe into the affairs of St Joseph’s Hospice at Salavakkam in Kanchipuram district, the state Social Welfare Department has clarified that the licence for the hospice to operate has not been renewed.
A Social Welfare Department official was quoted by the Times of India as saying that the hospice had applied for renewing its licence in September but it kept the renewal pending as the department had received complaints of abuse. The department wanted to investigate before processing the renewal request.
The hospice came into the spotlight after locals at Salavakkam rescued a woman who was shouting for help from its ambulance. Another old man and a corpse were also found in the ambulance besides groceries for the inmates. District Collector P Ponniah set up a team of officials from the revenue, health and social welfare departments to look into the allegations of abuse, while police were also ordered to look into the issue. Preliminary reports have been submitted. The collector said that the inmates of the hospice would be shifted out to another safe place until the investigations are completed. The officials said at least 60 people died in January alone.
The officials conducting the investigations told media that the hospice has not been reporting the deaths to the authorities concerned.
The Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) was the first party to raise questions about the functioning of the hospice. MDMK chief Vaiko, in a statement, criticised the police for arresting locals and lathi-charging them instead of investigating the cases at the hospice. The state government should set up a committee of sitting judges to probe the issue.
Naam Tamilar Katchi chief Seeman said the deaths at the hospice should be reviewed and a judicial inquiry should be ordered by the Tamil Nadu government. He said the state government should set up homes for old people.
Green Tamil Nadu Party, in a posting on Facebook, demanded an enquiry into the working of all mercy homes in the state.
A non-government organisation “Light for the Blind” runs the hospice and it had received foreign contributions to the tune of over Rs 2 crore during 2013-14 from the United Kingdom.
Father Thomas, who runs the hospice, told the media that no inmate was being held against his/her wish and they were free to go anywhere. The hospice would take them in their vehicle to the place of their choice if they desired. He has, however, been silent on other allegations.
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