Too much focus on one negative-incident: Nitish Kumar on shelter-homes
An under-pressure Bihar CM Nitish Kumar decided to address the Muzaffarpur shelter homes case today, but ended up making some disappointing comments. "Please look at positive happenings too. One-two negative incidents happen, you are still going on about it," he told opposition and media. However, he added that whoever's involved will be punished. "Those who try to save the accused will be jailed too."
The horrors came to light after TISS flagged rampant abuse at 14 shelters in Bihar, including Balika Grih. Police lodged an FIR against NGO Sewa Sankalp Evam Vikas Samiti, which was running Balika Grih. Initial probe revealed widespread sexual abuse. There were allegations a minor inmate had been killed and buried in the premises. Owner Brajesh Thakur and eight other staff members were arrested.
The girls told cops they were starved, drugged, forced to sleep naked, and beaten. A 10-year-old said she was made to sleep in Brajesh's room. They used to cut their hands and legs to escape abuse. 470 girls have been brought here in five years.
The accused presumably had contacts in high places. An arrested official's wife has alleged a minister's husband used to regularly visit the home. Neighbors said they frequently heard screams from the home, but "never got the courage to intervene as Brajesh Thakur was a muscleman." Moreover, a month after the FIR was filed, the NGO was awarded another government project, before it was cancelled.
Yesterday, several opposition parties came together in Delhi to protest against the incident. Congress president Rahul Gandhi said if Kumar was ashamed at all, he should act immediately. Bihar opposition-leader Tejashwi Yadav said although supporters of the government (BJP) talked about "Ram Rajya," there was "Rakshas Raj" in Bihar. Arvind Kejriwal (AAP), Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M), TKS Elangovan (DMK) and Dinesh Trivedi (TMC) also joined.
Meanwhile, the government has suspended six social welfare department officials, who "failed to report undesirable activities and take timely corrective steps at shelter homes...despite being flagged." The six - assistant directors of child protection units in Araria, Bhagalpur, Bhojpur, Madhubani, Munger and Muzaffarpur - were charged with "negligence and dereliction of duty." More such action is likely, sources told HT. The case is being probed by CBI.