FlippED is An ED Original style wherein two bloggers come together to share their opposing or orthogonal perspectives on an interesting subject.
Recently, Calcutta’s Pavlov Hospital helped its patients who were recovering from mental health problems get EPIC (Elector Photo Identity Cards) after a long campaign.
The inclusion of mental patients with respect to voting rights is an empowering move to make every citizen count in a democratic country.
“Just because someone is living with mental illness doesn’t imply even remotely that he cannot perceive the difference between two sparring partners vying for seats in the upcoming elections.“
— Aatreyee Dhar
The deteriorating condition of mental patients
I think every citizen, irrespective of the fact whether you suffer from mental or cognitive illness should be allowed the fundamental right to vote as they complete the bare minimum to be above 18 years of age.
Facilitating the process for hospitalized patients will reduce their vulnerability to the exclusion even from political processes.
Our country has established certain qualifications regarding the eligibility of a citizen to vote. Keeping with such voting qualifications, there is no clause of “undesirable groups” pertaining to people who are living with mental illness.
There is a gross misunderstanding and ignorance with respect to the perception of mental incompetence.
Why should mental patients be stigmatized and stripped of the fundamental voting rights when sane people have screwed up in having elected their representative a couple of times?
Sane people’s decisions took a miss at the word ‘sane’ when voting results for Brexit and the US elections were declared.
Just because someone is living with mental illness doesn’t imply even remotely that he cannot perceive the difference between two sparring partners vying for seats in the upcoming elections.
“If a person is mentally ill then it means that (s)he lacks the ability to make wise decisions. And if a person cannot make wise decisions, why should (s)he be given responsibility as big as electing our representative.”
— Himanshi Parihar
If the mental conditions are severe, I guess voting rights shouldn’t be denied with the assistance of people of their choice.
Secondly, we need to question whether we are making them vulnerable to unjust discrimination by mentioning the name of the mental hospitals on their ID cards.
Anyways, it is the need of the hour that politicians also start seeing mental health patients as a constituency emphasizing on a person’s rightful place in the society.
People of unsound mind are neither allowed to vote nor are they allowed to contest elections.
The Representation of People’s Act of India has three grounds for disqualifying Indians from voting-
- If they are below 18 years of age.
- If they are of unsound mind and stand so declared by a competent court.
- If they are convicted criminals or prisoners.
But what is mentally ill?
Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 defines mental illness as a “substantial disorder of thinking, mood, perception, orientation or memory that grossly impairs judgment, behaviour, capacity to recognise reality or ability to meet the ordinary demands of life, mental conditions associated with the abuse of alcohol and drugs.”
The bill does not include mental retardation.
Personally, I think mental retardation has a stronger case to be denied the voting right. This is because their mental age is less than their chronological age.
When Citizens below the chronological age of 18 are not allowed to vote, then why should they allow the ones with a mental age below 18?
Unfortunately, the bill does not include mental retardation.
To quote a data from the National Commission on Macroeconomics and Health, almost 100-200 Lakh Indians, i.e.1-2% of the population, suffered from severe mental; while almost 500 Lakh Indians, i.e. 5% of population, suffered from common mental disorders.
And this data is of 2005! The number must have swallowed by now.
But one thing is sure, one cannot deny voting rights to 5% of the population. So I think the people with very serious mental, cognitive disorders as well as those who have a mental age of less than 18 shouldn’t have voting rights.
But at the same time, the people who have recovered from mental illness should be allowed; so I appreciate the initiative of Calcutta’s Pavlov Hospital.
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You can find the bloggers at @dhar_aatreyee and @parihar_tweets