When my colleague from Lucknow Mudit Mathur called up to inform that Muzaffarpur (Bihar) like incident had been reported from Deoria in Uttar Pradesh, I was shocked. This is our India in 72nd year of its Independence. In fact I had taken with a pinch of salt a recent survey conducted by Thomas Reuters Foundation that ranked India as the world’s most dangerous country for women, ahead of Afghanistan, Syria and Saudi Arabia. Chilling details from shelter homes in Bihar and Deoria add dangerous dimensions to sexual abuse.
In both cases, it has come to notice that hapless girls were being sexually abused with the complicity of the NGO operators who obviously had considerable political clout. For example a person who owned a local newspaper home was running the Muzaffarpur shelter home. The two incidents come on the heels of shocking sexual and physical abuse of inmates inside Apna Ghar, a shelter home in Haryana.
Earlier the incident involving the rape of a 19-year-old mentally challenged girl who gave birth to a girl child in government run shelter home in Chandigarh shocked the nation when it was discovered that she was gang-raped by caretakers and guards. The sordid affairs of shelter homes show that the very homes meant to protect women are being used to sexually exploit them by high and mighty. In all cases vulnerable women are sexually violated with impunity. And when media highlights such incidents, the heads start rolling. In Bihar case, Social Welfare Minister Manju Verma has submitted her resignation to Chief Minister, Nitish Kumar after the name of her husband cropped up in case of sexual abuse of minor girls at the shelter home in Muzaffarpur. While in case of Bihar, the High Court monitored CBI probe has been ordered, in case of UP, Chief Minister, Yogi Adityanath has ordered inspection of all shelter homes in the State.
It happened in case of Apna Ghar in Rohtak where its predator Jaswanti Devi was convicted and in Chandigarh five persons were arrested. However, it seems no lessons are learnt as incidents like these continue happening with impunity. We cannot allow these shelter homes for the poor and destitute to turn into horror houses of exploitation where instead of protecting the inmates, they are considered easy prey. The Centre has initiated a measure by calling for a social audit of all the 9,000 child shelters in the country. In the meanwhile, it’s time we all join hands to vehemently condemn such incidents and press authorities so that such gory tales don’t recur.