THE BIHAR government has suspended 23 officials and staffers, including six assistant directors of child protection units, on charges of “negligence and dereliction of duty” for not submitting reports of irregularities and alleged sexual exploitation at shelter homes under their watch.
Among the top officials against whom action has been taken is Divesh Kumar Sharma, the assistant director of the child protection unit in Muzaffarpur, from where abuse of girls at a shelter home was brought to light in an audit conducted by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS).
The state’s Social Welfare Department has also dissolved child welfare committees in six districts based on adverse comments in audits conducted by TISS. The department is planning to install CCTV cameras and Android-based feedback devices at all homes to help facilitate the registration of complaints.
These decisions come a week after the Muzaffarpur case was handed over to the CBI, and three days after Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said the the incident has shamed his government.
The department has also withheld the allotment of 13 new beggars’ homes. The Indian Express had reported last month on how a beggars’ home was allotted to an NGO run by the main accused in the Muzaffarpur case, Brajesh Thakur, on May 31 — the day the FIR was lodged against him and 11 others. The allotment was cancelled three days later.
”We have suspended assistant directors of child protection units in Muzaffarpur, Bhagalpur, Madhubani, Araria, Bhojpur and Munger. We have dissolved child welfare committees in Patna, East Champaran, Kaimur, Gaya, Bhagalpur, Nawada, Sitamarhi and Katihar for not functioning properly,” Raj Kumar, director, Social Welfare Department, told The Indian Express.
The order suspending Sharma, the Muzaffarpur official, states: “You had been directed to take remedial steps after the TISS report but the Social Welfare Department and the Government have been placed in a difficult situation by you not taking any follow-up action.”
Asked what steps the Government has taken to improve such shelters, Raj Kumar said: “We have started the process of taking over shelter homes which have faced cases and adverse comments in TISS reports. We have drafted a professional agency to hire staffers who will be given regular training to run shelters professionally.”
On the Android-based feedback device, Kumar said: “The machine will be installed at such a place where any inmate can lodge a complaint by entering a button to record her voice that will be converted to text messages to reach the mobile phones of assistant directors and child protection units. The identity of complainants will not be revealed.”
The official said there is also a proposal to link CCTVs to the Internet so that shelter homes can be monitored online from anywhere. “We already have such a system in place for a beggars’ home in Patna,” said the director.