Month after report red-flagged abuse at girls’ shelter, Bihar NGO got another govt projecthttps://indianexpress.com/article/india/month-after-report-red-flagged-abuse-at-girls-shelter-bihar-ngo-got-another-govt-project-5281190/

Month after report red-flagged abuse at girls’ shelter, Bihar NGO got another govt project

According to official records, Thakur was getting about Rs 1 crore per year, from both the Centre and state government, to run five shelters for girls and women in Muzaffarpur.

Month after report red-flagged abuse at girls’ shelter, Bihar NGO got another govt project
The Muzaffarpur short stay home for girls, which is now being probed, housed 44 inmates and got an annual grant of over Rs 34 lakh. Muzaffarpur SSP Harpreet Kaur pegged the figure at Rs 40 lakh. (representational photo)

Although the report by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), pointing out the alleged sexual exploitation of inmates at the short stay home for girls in Muzaffarpur, was submitted in April, the state social welfare department sanctioned another project to the NGO running the shelter on May 31 — the same day police lodged an FIR against the NGO.

While the FIR named 11 people, including Brajesh Thakur, who runs the Muzaffarpur-based NGO Sewa Sankalp Evam Vikas Samiti, it was only after most of them were arrested on June 3 that the social welfare department cancelled the new project — for a beggars’ shelter in Patna.

According to documents seen by The Sunday Express, Raj Kumar, the then chief executive officer, State Society for Ultra Poor and Social Welfare, under the social welfare department, on May 31, allotted the beggars’ home project to Sewa Sankalp Evam Vikas Samiti for a monthly grant of Rs 1 lakh.

Three days later, Krishna Kumar Sinha, senior administrative officer with the State Society for Ultra Poor and Social Welfare, wrote to the Patna district assistant director, social security unit, on June 3, cancelling the allotment, citing “unavoidable circumstances”.

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“Thakur’s NGO had got the beggars’ home project in a bulk order. After we learnt about the case against the NGO, we cancelled the project. Generally, such sanctions are approved after a report by the selection team,” said Raj Kumar, who was appointed director, social welfare department, on June 1.

Meanwhile, officials in the social welfare department at Muzaffarpur said they had given an “adverse” report against Thakur as early as in 2013, before he got clearance to run the girls’ home. “As the shelter was to be housed in the same building as Pratah Kamal (a Hindi daily owned by Thakur) and had a narrow staircase, in a thickly-populated residential area, the selection committee was against the sanction, but senior officers from Patna told us to keep quiet,” said a senior official who did not want to be named. The short stay home in Muzaffarpur was cleared the same year.

Asked about the “adverse” report, Raj Kumar said: “I have taken over as director only recently and have no idea about what happened in the past. But, as I said, there is a selection committee of social welfare department officials who clear such shelters.”

According to official records, Thakur was getting about Rs 1 crore per year, from both the Centre and state government, to run five shelters for girls and women in Muzaffarpur. This included staff salaries, contingency fund and maintenance allowance per inmate.

The Muzaffarpur short stay home for girls, which is now being probed, housed 44 inmates and got an annual grant of over Rs 34 lakh. Muzaffarpur SSP Harpreet Kaur pegged the figure at Rs 40 lakh.

Thakur also got Rs 15 lakh annually for an old-age home for women, Rs 19 lakh annually for a short stay home for women, Rs 12 lakh annually for a self-help cum rehabilitation home, and Rs 19 lakh annually for a “targeted intervention scheme”, all in Muzaffarpur.

Besides shelters for girls and women, Thakur, whose family owns three newspapers — Pratah Kamal (Hindi daily), Halaat-e-Bihar (Urdu daily) and News Next (English daily) — also operated a handicraft training centre for women and a link workers scheme in Samastipur, and Vama Shakti Vahini, a women’s home in Bettiah.

In a another development, the medical reports of five more girls from the Muzaffarpur short stay home confirmed “intercourse and sexual contact”. With this, the reports of 34 girls have confirmed abuse.

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