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Once a mental asylum, NIMHANS hails new status

Breaking news! Bangalore: "We are proud of it." These few words summed up the celebratory mood at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences here on becoming an institute of national importance on Wednesday.

"The status will give flexibility to start new courses and take independent decisions," S.K. Shankar, dean of Faculty of Neuro Sciences department and acting in-charge of NIMHANS, told the sources.

Decisions and plans to start new courses at present have to be approved by the Medical Council of India.

"We are proud of it," Shankar said on the central government announcing on Wednesday that it has approved the health and family welfare ministry's proposal to declare NIMHANS as an institute of national importance.

The director and vice-chancellor of NIMHANS, which now has the status of Deemed University, was away in Melbourne for a conference.

Asked whether the new status will bring in more funds to expand the activities and the faculty strength of the institute, Shankar said, "We hope so. We have been asking for it."

He said he was not in a position to give details. "After the director returns, we will discuss and set realistic goals," he said.

The institute now has 140 faculty members (doctors) handling 21 departments.

It traces its origin to the second half of the 19th century when a mental asylum was set up at Lakkasandra, which then was on the outskirts of the city.

Now Lakkasandra is part of Bangalore's central business district and about six kilometres from Vidhana Soudha, the state secretariat, in the heart of the city.

The lunatic asylum was renamed Mental Hospital in 1925.

In 1974, the asylum and the All India Institute of Mental Health, set up by the Indian government in 1954, were merged to become the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS). It was an autonomous institution run under the guidance of central and Karnataka health ministries.

NIMHANS was given the status of Deemed University in 1994.

The institute's mission includes setting up training facilities for developing countries by institutional and distance learning.

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