How many such homes are there?Social Welfare Minister Manju Verma, whose husband too was accused of visiting the Muzaffarpur shelter home frequently, says there are 110 such shelter and short-stay homes in the State for girls and women, “but we’ve reports of irregularities at only five of them, while the rest are doing well.” However, the 100-page TISS report said officials had pointed out several discrepancies at over a dozen shelter and short-stay homes, including at Motihari, Chhapra, Sasaram, Bhabhua, Vaishali and other places.Will they be probed as well?Department Principal Secretary Atul Prasad said that in view of the TISS report, investigations were going on at all shelter and short-stay homes and suitable action would be taken, if discrepancies were found. If need be, girls and women would be shifted from there and the NGOs given the contract to run the homes would be blacklisted, he said. The Muzaffarpur home has already been sealed and girls have been shifted to shelter homes at Patna, Mokama and Madhubani. The NGO had also been blacklisted, he said.What happens next?The government has recommended a CBI inquiry into the Muzaffarpur case and the names of several bigwigs are expected to surface in the investigation. Mr. Prasad admitted that the TISS social audit report was an eye-opener and said the Department would consider a number of measures to prevent such incidents occurring again. Among some of the suggestions are installation of CCTV cameras and deputing transgenders as security guards at such shelter and short-stay homes. What happened?A social audit report prepared by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) found that at a State-run shelter home, Balika Grih, in Muzaffarpur, a north Bihar district, 34 of the 44 girls had been sexually exploited. Following the report of “physical and sexual violence” against girls at the home, the Opposition parties sought a High Court-monitored CBI probe. On Thursday, the State government recommended a CBI inquiry.How did it come about?In June 2017, the Social Welfare Department, which looks after shelter and short-stay homes in the State, asked the TISS to prepare a report on their condition. The report, submitted to the Department on April 26 this year, made startling revelations about “physical and sexual violations of girls,” especially at the Muzaffarpur home. On May 31, the Department filed an FIR at the women’s police station in Muzaffarpur, seeking “suitable action” on the plight of girls as mentioned on page 52 of the TISS report under the caption ‘Grave Concern.’ On June 2, the Muzaffarpur police arrested Brajesh Thakur, the man who was managing the NGO, Sewa Sankalp Evam Vikas Samiti, to which the Department had given a contract to run the home. Subsequently, nine other persons, seven of them women employees at the home, were arrested and sent to jail. A chargesheet was filed on July 26. One accused, Dilip Verma, is absconding.Why does it matter?The Muzaffarpur case has come as a huge embarrassment to the Nitish Kumar-led NDA government as Opposition leaders not only raised the issue strongly in and outside the State legislature but also accused the government of protecting Thakur. A local politician, Thakur is believed to have close relations with several BJP and JD(U) leaders. He had contested the Assembly election in 1995 and 2000 from Kudhani in Muzaffarpur as a candidate of the Bihar People’s Party, then an NDA ally, but lost. He also runs a vernacular newspaper Pratah Kamal from the same building in which the shelter home is located, and was in the State press accreditation committee too. His newspaper, despite having a very low circulation, was empanelled by the government’s Public Relations Department and has been the beneficiary of government advertisements worth crores of rupees.
After days of suspense over reaching out to the Shiv Sena for formation of the next government in Maharashtra, the BJP on Tuesday said it was ready to negotiate as soon as its pre-poll ally sent its proposal. The Opposition has made similar overtures to Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray. The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) assured the Shiv Sena that it could provide an alternative for government formation if its support was sought. Mr. Pawar met Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi on Monday.On Tuesday, leaders of the NCP and the Congress met Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari. The Opposition leaders sought a hike in the relief announced for the rain-affected farmers.Core panel meeting Thirteen days after the results of the Maharashtra Assembly election left the BJP short of a majority, the party’s core committee met to discuss the stalemate. The Shiv Sena has been demanding the implementation of a 50:50 power-sharing formula, which it claims includes sharing of Cabinet portfolios and the post of Chief Minister. “The committee reviewed the current political situation. The people of Maharashtra have voted for a BJP-Sena coalition, and we will give due respect to this mandate,” State party president Chandrakant Patil said after the meeting at the residence of caretaker Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.The committee, which includes Girish Mahajan and Sudhir Mungantiwar, is on standby to negotiate with the Sena, but if no proposal comes within two days, the BJP is gearing up for imposition of President’s rule. Senior BJP leader Vinod Tawde met Governor Koshyari after the meeting and apprised him of the party’s position. “We are willing to play a wait and watch game with the Sena,” a senior minister of the BJP said. Mr. Mungantiwar said the party is open to begin talks even in the next 24 hours, and the core committee will meet again on Wednesday to discuss future parleys. “You will soon get the good news on government formation,” he said. The BJP has already forwarded its proposal to the Sena to begin talks on all fronts, except the “non-negotiable” post of the Chief Minister, a source told The Hindu. Late on Tuesday, Mr. Fadnavis flew to Nagpur and met RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat. RSS functionaries in Nagpur were tight-lipped about what transpired at the meeting, though it is being speculated that the meeting was about the political deadlock in the State.The Sena, whose might in the 288-seat Assembly went up to 64 on Tuesday, after an independent MLA Rajendra Patil Yedavkar declared his support for the party, remained hard to please. “This statement (from the BJP) is a sign of maturity. Had they done this earlier, we would have formed government by now,” said Sena leader and Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut.. “All the Sena is saying is do as was decided, nothing more,” Mr. Raut said.