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From the Founder

Mental illness has had disturbing connotations for me right since my childhood. It was embodied in the physical presence of two aunts whom I never got to know. Both suffered from schizophrenia and they were locked away from public gaze. They were never a part of family gatherings. It was as though they were in a state of non-existence, in the never-never-land of the cuckoo's nest.

It was impossible for me to forget my aunts. Their imagined voices resonated in my mind, stimulating me to pursue a degree in psychology and take up a career in caring for people with psychosocial disability. The focus of my work had always been rehabilitation and reintegration of people with psychosocial disability. It is my experience in a halfway home that gradually led me to comprehend the need for systemic reform in mental health care and treatment in our country. Partnership with the government seemed to be the appropriate strategy and Anjali was born. Initially, as a service delivery organization offering rehabilitation and reintegration services to people with psychosocial disability institutionalized in state-run mental hospitals. Then, through further experiential learning, towards adopting a rights framework to actively advocate for the rights of people with psychosocial disability.

When I look back at the genesis of Anjali, I see where my thinking was different from what I was seeing all around me. The nineteen-eighties saw the emergence of development /social welfare organizations taking up various issues for marginalized population segments. The nineteen-nineties formalized the era of globalization, and with that - the gradual withdrawal of the State from the social sector. The term 'NGO' entered public discourse and it seemed that it was the responsibility of NGOs to address the developmental needs of marginalized population segments. Many new initiatives were born - in mental health care and treatment also - all setting up parallel systems and institutions to offer 'quality' mental health care and treatment. Somehow, I had a sense of disquiet: India is supposed to be a welfare State. Such a State would surely have a responsibility to offer health care services for those who cannot buy it? What about ensuring that? What about bringing in systemic reforms where needed?

I could not have articulated this in these lucid terms back then, but it is this sense of discomfort that urged me to launch the Anjali initiative: a partnership with the government to ensure that the State offers quality mental health care and treatment. Collaboration to help the State achieve the requisite standards, rather than taking the responsibility away from it.

I have moved further ahead in my thoughts and understanding. It has now become clear to me that the dream of systemic reforms would remain a pipe dream unless civil society's ambivalence about persons with psychosocial disability is challenged and the issue of the rights of this particular constituency is firmly established in popular psyche. Only then would we be able to lobby with the government for the necessary changes in policies and practice. Hence, Anjali's shift from just service delivery towards advocacy for the rights of people with psychosocial disability.

Anjali works towards making people with psychosocial disability aware of their rights, and to make the government and civil society make the necessary shifts in attitude and practice to make these rights a reality: the right to healthcare and support in institutions, the right to care and support at home, the right to education and training, the right to work and earn an income; and most of all, the right to be treated with dignity as human beings, both in the institutional and social spaces. ~ Ratnaboli Ray