‘After 30 Years of Work on Mental Health, NDMC is Evicting Us Now’
Sumaitri, an NGO working on mental health, has been served with an eviction notice as its lease expired in 2017.
Video Producer: Maaz Hasan
Video Editor: Purnendu Pritam
(If you feel suicidal or know someone in distress, please reach out to them with kindness and call these numbers of local emergency services, helplines, and mental health NGOs.)
Over 7,00,000* people in the world die of suicide every year, and yet, mental health is not talked about in India to the extent it should be. We at Sumaitri, a crisis intervention NGO for people who are depressed, distressed, or feeling suicidal in New Delhi, are trying hard for over three decades to help such people and support them emotionally.
But now, our future seems to be in the dark and we are struggling for our existence, as notices have been served to us by the New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) to vacate the space given to us at the Aradhana Hostel Complex on Bhagwan Das Lane in New Delhi.
Sumaitri was founded in 1988 and members started working from an office space provided by the NDMC at Babar Road. Later, we were asked to shift to the present space from where we are carrying out our operations. We used to get an annual lease, which got renewed every year until 2017.
The NDMC didn’t renew our lease after 2017. It came to us as a jolt that the authorities wanted us to vacate. In March 2020, we were served with an eviction notice.
Since we are a voluntary organisation, we neither pay our volunteers nor charge anyone in need. So, for us, it’s not possible to survive and function from any commercial office complex and the NDMC has been very kind for three decades to have been supporting us by providing us space at a negligible rate of Re 1 per month.
However, now despite several requests, the NDMC has sealed three out of four rooms and disconnected the electricity. We have communicated to them that we are also willing to relocate to any other space, but for some reasons beyond our understanding, we are unable to get an extension of our lease.
In our country, we keep preaching about mental health. After so many cases of suicide, we keep telling how important mental health is. But when a voluntary organisation like Sumaitri tries to help people with mental health issues, required support is withdrawn for them to function.
We request the NDMC to help us support the welfare activity that we have been doing for many years from Aradhana Hostel Complex, where they support an old age home and working women’s hostel, especially amid a pandemic, when people are looking for more help on their mental health.
The Quint received a statement from NDMC which said that Sumaitri was allotted 1,100 sq ft in the basement of the Aradhana Old Age Home on a token rent of Re 1 per month but the NGO occupied 15,344 sq ft of area, which is more than the allotted area.
“The Chief Architect had opined that the activities carried out by the NGO, are not permitted to be carried out from a basement,” reads the statement. In June 2020, the Law Department of NDMC upheld the opinion given by the Chief Architect as technically correct and in consonance with the Unified Building Bye-laws and MPD 2021.
On 17 March 2021, NDMC had forwarded the matter to its Estate Department for further action.
The story was updated after it was initially published in the afternoon of 24 June 2021 after the response from NDMC.
(*Data from WHO, 2019.)
(All 'My Report' branded stories are submitted by citizen journalists to The Quint. Though The Quint inquires into the claims/allegations from all parties before publishing, the report and the views expressed above are the citizen journalist's own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for the same.)
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