THE BIHAR government on Thursday recommended a CBI probe into the alleged sexual exploitation of inmates at the short stay home for girls, run by NGO Seva Sankalp Evam Vikas Samiti, in Muzaffarpur.
Raising the issue in the Assembly, the Opposition demanded the resignation of Social Welfare Department Minister Manju Verma, following allegations that her husband was also involved. Verma told the Legislative Council that if her husband, Chandrashekhar Verma, a former legislator, was found to be involved, she would “request the court to hang him”. “As I hail from a backward community and am the only woman minister, I am being targeted,” she said.
The Muzaffarpur police have arrested 10 people so far, including Ravi Kumar Roshan, the district child protection officer, Brajesh Thakur, caretaker of the short stay home, and Vikas Kumar, a member of the child welfare committee. One of the accused, Dilip Kumar Verma, chairman of the child welfare committee, is absconding.
Police on Thursday filed a chargesheet against the 10 arrested persons, under IPC Sections 341 (wrongful restraint), 342 (wrongful confinement), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 326 (causing grievous hurt with weapons), 354 A (sexual harassment), 354 B (assault with intent to disrobe), 120 B (criminal conspiracy), 109 (abetment), 504 (breach of peace), 506 (criminal intimidation) and 376 C (sexual intercourse by a person in authority) and also under provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act and POCSO Act.
On Wednesday, Roshan’s wife, Shiba Kumari Singh, claimed that her husband was being made a scapegoat. “I want to know in what capacity Minister Manju Verma’s husband would visit the short stay home. He used to go upstairs (where the girls stayed), while his bodyguards and others accompanying him would wait downstairs,” she alleged.
Chandrashekhar Verma said he had accompanied his wife to the short stay home only once.
Muzaffarpur Town DSP Mukul Ranjan, in his supervision report, said the girls had named Thakur, the caretaker, and identified a “head Sir” and “a sir with a very big belly”. Police are trying to identify these two men.
The report said Thakur, whose family brings out a local Hindi daily, Pratah Kamal, from the same building which houses the short stay home, has close ties with Vikas Kumar and a social welfare department official.
“Thakur accumulated assets worth billions and has properties at Raj Nagar Extension, Delhi, his paternal village of Patahi in Samastipur, Darbhanga, Bettiah, Muzaffarpur and Patna, besides owning a hotel in Muzaffarpur… through dalaali (brokerage), newspaper advertisements, sex racket and supply of girls in the country and abroad… The truth will come out once the Enforcement Directorate investigates,” Ranjan said in his report.
“Instead of rehabilitating sex workers, Thakur was using teenaged and helpless girls to get tenders. We need to identify some office bearers (who could have colluded with Thakur),” said the report. It quoted several girls as saying that they were injected with drugs, before being taken to other rooms by Kiran Devi, an employee at the shelter and one of the accused.
“We have been investigating all the allegations made by victims. We dug up a spot in front of the NGO’s office after three girls alleged that a girl had been buried there. Nothing was found… We are looking into all aspects of Thakur’s nexus,” Ranjan told The Indian Express.
Besides the girls’ shelter, Thakur also operated two other short stay homes, an old age home and a centre for women at Muzaffarpur, a handicraft centre in Samastipur, a shelter for beggars in Patna, and a voluntary group called Vama Shakti Vahini in Bettiah. The Centre and state government gave a monthly grant of Rs 1,800 per child.