September 28, 2020

Shelter home horrors tumble out

Patna: A member of the district protection unit meant to monitor homes for underprivileged children was sent to jail on Wednesday over the sexual exploitation of underage girls at a shelter home run by an NGO, Seva Sankalp Evam Vikas Samiti, in Muzaffarpur.

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

Dilmani Devi, chairperson of the state women’s commission, said the panel had received complaints from some girls that they were forced to undergo abortion.

Muzaffarpur senior superintendent of police (SSP) Harpreet Kaur, however, said she was not aware 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 abort at the shelter home.

Kaur revealed that apart from Vikas Kumar – who was sent to jail on Wednesday – at least five other suspects, including more members of the district protection unit, were on the radar of the special investigation team (SIT) headed by city superintendent of police Upendra Nath Verma.

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 the two culprits as Brajesh Thakur and Vikas Kumar,” Kaur added.

Sources in the SIT said that 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.

“We had demanded additional women police officers from the headquarters as we didn’t have sufficient number of lady officers to take the case to the logical conclusion,” SSP Kaur said. Sources in the social welfare department said the Samiti had entered into an agreement on October 31, 2013 to run the shelter home in Muzaffapur.

What has baffled the police officers is that the social welfare department sat on a report from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai, had conducted social audit of 110 stay shelters and raised objections over half a dozen such units in Bihar. The social TISS report was submitted to the social welfare department on March 15, but the department sent a letter to the Muzaffarpur district protection unit authority on May 26 asking 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.

Courtesy: The Telegraph

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