Nanjangud: Left in the wild to get killed many of them do not know from where they came, who they are and why. While one continues to stare blankly at the cloudy skies, the other knows only one word TEA and follows everyone who visits the place. They are the hapless unfortunates that society neither needs nor cares for. Lost forever in this shelter home called Karunalaya on the Ooty road at the edge of Karnataka's Bandipur Tiger Reserve, the 55 odd mentally challenged eke out their existence on a day to day basis.
"These unfortunate people are immune from hope and despair and they are not waiting for anyone either, as no one will ever come to take them back home," said Sister Mary who shared her thoughts with this correspondent.
Some of them were dumped on the road in the wild-life sanctuary to fend for themselves by truck drivers, but some compassionate souls brought them here, explained an official of the hospital cum care-centre for the mentally challenged.
The centre which started its journey with a dispensary, turned into a full-fledged hospital but now is more focused on the shelter for the mentally disable, is run by seven Sisters of St Charles Borromeo congregation.
The inmates housed in the shelter come from various places, most do not know any language. One female spoke what sounded like Bangla, while another could mutter a few words in Hindi. "Many have been sexually abused and left in the lurch before they were brought here, two kids born here were sent to an orphanage," a functionary explained. The construction work on a new home for them continues, but there are hurdles and of course resources crunch is a chronic deterrent, she added.
The help through monetary or material donations is comparatively easy compared to the love and care on a continuous basis showered by the serving sisters. "Some of them have to be fed, cajoled, washed regularly and counseled. This is a regular routine. We do try to keep them busy in some work also but constant supervision is necessary," said Sister Mary.
Located alongside the highway to Ooty in the verdent green, the Karunalaya centre is popular with villagers as the first and trusted halt for medi-care. "For deliveries women now choose the government hospitals as there are a whole lot of benefits from cash to material in kind. We provide various other facilities which are sadly lacking in the area," said the doctor in charge. Every week we get a few cases of people with mental problems.
"When they come they do not have a name or an identity, so we give them a name for administrative convenience, and also to be able to identify them. Efforts are made to keep them busy in some work," Sister Mary added.
The original plan was to provide a decent hospital with modern facilities, but with the number of mentally challenged people increasing, our activities are now focused on their needs. "Due to social or family pressures, changing life-styles and stress, and of course exploitation of women in various ways, the need for such centers is increasing," said social activist Mukta.
Karunalaya, on the edge of the Bandipur Tiger reserves, 225 km southeast of Bangalore, is home to "those dumped on the highway by truck drivers who are paid to get rid off unwanted people, left in the wild to fend for themselves, some have got killed by wild animals in the past."
The inmates come from Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Orissa, West Bengal in addition to Karnataka. Most have been brought here by truck drivers. The check posts of the Karnataka government to control human trafficking has not been too helpful.