Shelter homes in Bihar : a can of worms?

Shelter homes in Bihar : a can of worms?

Patna: It’s a crying shame! The very people entrusted to ‘protect’ the abandoned and at-risk girls in a state-approved shelter are now on trial for having sexually assaulted them. A member of the district protection unit meant to monitor homes for underprivileged children was sent to jail on Wednesday (June 6) on the charge of the sexual exploitation of underage girls at a shelter home run by an NGO, Seva Sankalp Evam Vikas Samiti, in Muzaffarpur.

Vikas (extreme left) walks to jail

In their statement before the magistrate, most of the girls from the shelter home said they had been raped.

Dilmani Devi, the chairperson of the state women’s commission, said the panel had received complaints from some inmates that the home authorities had forced them to undergo an abortion.

Muzaffarpur senior superintendent of police (SSP) Harpreet Kaur expressed her ignorance of reports that three of the girls were found to be pregnant. “I have not received the medical report of the girls yet, but the preliminary report has not suggested so,” Kaur said, adding that the SIT was probing whether any girl had ever been forced to undergo an abortion at the shelter home.

Kaur said that besides Vikas Kumar – sent to jail on Wednesday – there were at least five other suspects, including members of the district protection unit. The special investigation team (SIT) headed by city superintendent of police Upendra Nath Verma is probing the matter.

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The SSP said that at least two of the eight girls, whose statements were recorded in Patna, revealed that they were raped and tortured by the protection unit members as well as office bearers of the Samiti.”The girls identified two Brajesh Thakur and Vikas Kumar,” Kaur said. Brajesh had been arrested on Sunday (June 3)

Dilip Kumar, an official associated with the district protection unit, has gone into hiding ever since the sexual abuse case surfaced.

The state police headquarters on Wednesday also provided three women police officers – a deputy superintendent of police and two sub-inspectors – to assist the SIT.

The NGO had entered into an agreement on October 31, 2013, to run the shelter home in Muzaffapur.

It is to be noted that that the social welfare department took no action on a report from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai. TISS had conducted social audit of 110 stay shelters and raised objections over half a dozen such units in Bihar. The TISS report was submitted to the social welfare department on March 15. It was only on May 25 that the Department of Social Welfare sent a letter to the Muzaffarpur district protection unit authority asking them to shift the girls and lodge an FIR.

The assistant director of the unit, Devesh Sharma, lodged an FIR on May 30. Eight persons, including Brajesh, were arrested on June 3.

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