Lucknow: Twenty-four minor girls were rescued from a shelter home run by an NGO in Uttar Pradesh’s Deoria by the police after allegation of abuse and sexual exploitation of the inmates came to light on Sunday. Eighteen girls from the shelter home are still missing, police said.
Three people, including the manager of the institution Girija Tripathi and her husband Mohan Tripathi, have been arrested.
A case of human trafficking, sexual abuse and child labour has been registered against functionaries of NGO Maa Vindhayvasini Mahila Evam Balika Sanrakshan Grah that was running the shelter home.
Additional director general (law and order) Anand Kumar said that the rescued children would be sent for medical examination to check if they were sexually abused.
The matter came to light when, late on Sunday night, a 10-year-old girl escaped from the shelter home and went to a police station and complained of how she and others were being “treated like servants”. The police immediately raided the shelter home and rescued the 24 girls. The complainant could not specify if the girls were being pushed into flesh trade, police said.
“All she could tell us was that after 4 pm several persons used to come in ‘black and white cars’ and ‘madam would send the girls with them’. She said that when the girls returned later in the night, they would keep crying,” said a police official.
The Yogi Adityanath government swung into action to control the damage by removing the district magistrate Sujit Kumar and ordering a high-level probe by additional chief secretary Renuka Kumar.
The chief minister has directed all the district magistrates of 75 districts to check girl and children shelter homes and provide security to the inmates.
The Deoria incident comes close to a similar incident in Muzaffarpur in Bihar where 34 of 42 girls in the age group of seven to 17 were allegedly abused at an NGO funded by the state government.
Uttar Pradesh’s minister for women and child welfare Rita Bahuguna Joshi said that the Deoria probation officer has been suspended because he ignored the fact that the shelter home was running despite cancellation of its license.
Deoria superintendent of police Rohan P. Kanay told reporters that the licence of the shelter home had been revoked in June after a number of irregularities were found during an inspection by the CBI. The shelter home director, however, had taken a stay order from court.
“When the order to close this institution was issued, a team went there and the organisation’s director misbehaved with them. When a girl escaped from there, she narrated the reality before us and we immediately raided the place and rescued 24 girls,” the SP said.
Under a 2017 order of the Allahabad high court, the CBI was in the process of examining financial records of the Deoria NGO, along with other state NGOs, to check alleged misappropriation. A manager of the Deoria NGO was also called to the CBI office to present records, a CBI official said, dismissing reports that the probe agency had visited the shelter home.
The 10-year-old complainant in the case revealed that smaller children were made to sweep floors and do menial jobs at the shelter home.
The girl, who belongs to Betia in Bihar, was brought to the shelter home three years ago after her mother died. Her father remarried and abandoned her.
The Deoria incident sparked a political war of words with BSP chief Mayawati attacking the BJP and declaring that there was complete “jungle raj” in states ruled by the saffron party.
“The allegation of sexual exploitation of the inmates in a shelter in Deoria (similar to Muzaffarpur in Bihar) proves the rampant anarchy in the BJP governments, and the feeling of rising insecurity and pathetic conditions is a matter of shame and worry for the entire country,” Ms Mayawati said in a statement.
“There is complete ‘jungle raj’ in the BJP-ruled states, and like law and order, women security and respect is not a priority. It is the last subject of concern for them,” Ms Mayawati said.
Samajwadi Party leader and MLC Sunil Singh Sajan said that the scam had taken place in Deoria, which is an adjoining district of chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s Gorakhpur district, and the government had not learnt any lessons from the similar scam in Bihar.
“The BJP government claims that they are providing security to girls, but the incident shows that kind of patronage that the shelter home enjoyed,” he said.
Union women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi took to damage control suggesting that states should build a single large central facility to house destitute minor girls in a bid to prevent “abuse and misuse” by NGOs.
“I have been asking for a scheme where each state creates and run a single large facility to house all such girls and children which should be run by the state government,” she said.