Patna: The security system around government-funded shelter homes for minor girls in Bihar has once again been exposed following the mysterious escape of seven girls, including five rape survivors of the Muzaffarpur shelter home sexual abuse case, from a child care institution at Mokama in Patna early on Saturday morning.
The matter came to the fore during the counting of the inmates of the shelter home. Barh assistant superintendent of police Lipi Singh immediately rushed to the spot and inquired about the incident. Later on, Patna district magistrate Kumar Ravi and senior superintendent of police (SSP) Garima Malik visited the facility.
The mysterious disappearance of the girls has taken place even as the trial in the much-publicised case is now being conducted in Delhi's Saket POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) special court. The trial was shifted from Muzaffarpur special POCSO court on the directive of the Supreme Court which is now monitoring the investigation into the case.
When contacted, Patna SSP Garima said that the local police officials were already on the job. “Our first priority is to trace the missing girls and then take action. The employees of the shelter home are being interrogated by the police. However, no breakthrough has been made in the case yet.”
An FIR was lodged at the Mokama police station. Investigating officials disclosed that the girls escaped from the facility run by Najerath Hospital at Mokama, around 100 kilometres away from the state capital Patna, at around 3.30 a.m after cutting the iron grill of the gate of the building. The entire escape has been captured in a CCTV installed at the shelter home.
Recently, a girl inmate had attempted to commit suicide by cutting the nerves of her hand with a blade. Later she was shifted to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Patna for treatment. The matter remained under wraps as no officials were willing to speak on the issue.
A total of 14 girls out of 42 were shifted to Mokama shelter home from Muzaffarpur Balika Grih after the controversy erupted in May last year. Similarly, 10 girls were shifted to Madhubani and the remaining to a Patna-based shelter home in June last year.
An FIR was lodged with the women police station in Muzaffarpur on the statement of an official of the social welfare department Devesh Kumar Sharma on 31 May, 2018. On 2 June, eight persons, including the alleged mastermind Brajesh Thakur, were arrested by the police.
The girl inmates had narrated their horrendous tale of sexual assault to a social audit team of Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai. Subsequently, eight persons, including the mastermind Thakur and those engaged in running the shelter home, were arrested and sent to jail. Medical reports had confirmed the rape of 34 girl inmates of Balika Grih located on Sahu Road in Muzaffarpur, around 80 kilometres away from Patna.
Brajesh's NGO — Seva Sankalp Evam Vikas Samiti — was running the Balika Grih (shelter home for destitute girls). Though Brajesh denied that he was associated with the NGO, CBI investigation established that he was the beneficiary of the funds allotted by the government to run the home for minor girls.
In July last year, the apex court had ordered the CBI to investigate the case after much hue and cry was raised by the Opposition in the state. However, the state government transferred the then Muzaffarpur SSP Harpreet Kaur to Samastipur in the midst of the controversy.
On Saturday, seven accused including Madhu, a close associate of Brajesh Thakur, were taken to Delhi to depose before the special POCSO court. Brajesh, who has close relations with influential politicians of the state, is currently lodged in Patiala jail.
Kumari Manju Verma, who was then the social welfare department minister and is considered close to chief minister Nitish Kumar, had to step down due to the growing demand of her resignation by the Opposition leaders. Manju's husband Chandrashekhar Prasad Verma was in constant touch with Brajesh.
(The author is a Patna-based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.com.)
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Updated Date: Feb 23, 2019 19:36:51 IST