500 tribal schoolgirls dead: NHRC asks Maharashtra to explain mystery deaths, sexual abuse reports

Mumbai: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has asked the Maharashtra government to explain reports of sexual abuse and mystery deaths of over 500 tribal girls in state-run ashram schools, an official said on Tuesday.

Taking cognisance of media reports, the NHRC has sent a notice to the state chief secretary seeking his detailed report in the serious matter within six weeks.

 500 tribal schoolgirls dead: NHRC asks Maharashtra to explain mystery deaths, sexual abuse reports

Representational image. Firstpost/Pramod Pawar

The NHRC said that the media reports "are indicative of violation of right to life and dignity of the girl students of the schools and also highlights the negligence and apathy of the authorities".

The media reported last week that the authorities maintained menstruation records of the minor girls and conducted pregnancy tests on them whenever they missed their period or returned from vacations, and this unethical practice was carried out without parental consent.

The matter was exposed when a tribal girl, who came home for Diwali vacation, complained of stomach pains and later she was found to be a victim of sexual abuse at school.

Another 12-year-old girl also alleged similar sexual abuse by a sweeper of the same school in Khamgaon, Buldhana district, which houses 70 girls without a single female superintendent.

According to official figures there are around 1,100 state-run or aided tribal residential schools in Maharashtra catering to 2.3 lakh male and 1.6 lakh female students.

In the past 15 years, over 1,500 students including 700 girls have died and sexual abuse is suspected to be a reason behind these deaths, the NHRC noted.

Frowning at the state government for not taking any initiatives to redress the grievance, the NHRC pointed out that the state has yet to submit a report to the NHRC on its notice of 10 October, 2016 on allegations of deaths of 740 tribal students in ashram schools, despite a reminder on 26 November.

Primary and secondary schools run in tribal areas are by-and-large a neglected topic in public discourse. Over the past fortnight, Firstpost published a five-part series that explored some of the issues affecting these schools, and their students. You can read them here:

Part 1: State of neglect endangers student health

Part 2: Students stare at malnutrition due to poor food, filthy kitchens

Part 3: Abysmal security, sexual assault cases remain an alarming concern

Part 4: With poor infrastructure, underqualified teachers, education takes a backseat

Part 5: Students subjected to rampant political interference

Updated Date: Jan 25, 2017 07:57:35 IST