Bihar, where state-run girl shelters are under the scanner

first_img 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.last_img read more