The doctor is out. In fact, he’s only an occasional visitor. There are no full-time psychiatrists across jails and borstals (juvenile detention centres) in Maharashtra. Section 103 of the Mental Health Care Act, 2017, requires state governments to set up a mental health establishment in the medical wing of at least one prison in each state, where prisoners can be referred to and cared for. Certainly, such psychiatric wings can be found in Maharashtra’s jails—it’s just that they have no resident doctors, only visiting psychiatrists.
Sandeep Mahamuni, visiting psychiatrist at Yerawada jail, tells Outlook, “There are no full-time psychiatrists. I work as a visiting psychiatrist at the jail. There is also another clinical psychologist who visits as and when required. The patients are evaluated for anxiety, depression, schizophrenia and other mental illnesses. There is a psychiatric ward inside the jail. The prisoners who are suicidal and need immediate attention are admitted to hospitals in Pune—since there are no full-time doctors at the jail, where they are kept on oral medication. The clinical psychologist conducts counselling sessions for the prisoners.”