The recent death of the Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput who allegedly committed suicide has spurred up debates around the issue of mental health in India. The youth have taken to social media including Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook to raise the public consciousness around the issue.
Advocate Gaurav Kumar Bansal had filed a plea in the Supreme Court alleging that Insurance Regulatory Development Authority (IRDA) failed to implement Section 21 (4) of Mental Health Act, 2017 which can severely affect people. He also alleged that the regulatory authority failed to ensure the implementation of the relevant provisions of the act due to its red tape attitude despite the provisions of the law providing for the same. While a circular was issued by IRDA on 16th August 2018 to all the insurance companies asking them to comply with the Mental Health Act, none of the companies had brought them into effect until February 6th, 2019. The information on the non-enforcement of the provisions of the Mental Health Act was based on the RTI application that the advocate had filed on 10th January 2019.
Hearing the plea, the bench of justices including RF Nariman, Navin Sinha, and BR Gavai heard the petition today and has sought reply from the center and the IRDA on the inclusion of mental health in the insurances.
While the act of the Supreme Court to recognize the issue and provide it due recognition is appreciable and a step in the right direction especially when the government has drained out funds from its public healthcare provisioning to an insurance-based health system through the launch and overemphasized policies like Aayushman Bharat and not provided enough funds for schemes like National Urban Health Mission (NUHM) and National Rural Health Mission (NRHM). It must however be noted that the country is trying to address the issue of mental health when the public health system is in shambles not anywhere near to providing basic health care to its citizens.
The largest democracy in the world suffers its worst crisis as COVID – 19 has exposed how bad the state of the public healthcare system in the country is.
A country that spends only 1.5% of its GDP on healthcare for a population that is estimated to be around 130 Crore is only an indicator that healthcare including mental health has not been a priority of the state.