Facing heat over the alleged sexual exploitation of minor girls at government-sponsored shelter homes in Bihar, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar Monday slammed Opposition leaders who had held a candle march protest at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi. “Those sitting on the protest should look within themselves and the sort of comments they have made against women in the past,” he said while addressing the media.
“The people protesting the Muzaffarpur case do not want to fight corruption, they wish to stay in power and continue corruption. I don’t feel that the politicians who are protesting are concerned about the girls who have been sexually assaulted in Muzaffarpur, they just want to change the debate,” he added.
Promising strict action against the culprits, Kumar said the government will cut off funding for NGOs to run shelter homes. “Why should we use an NGO? The government should spend money to build houses and hire people to take care of these children,” he said.
Expressing concern over the scale of the alleged sexual exploitation at shelter homes, Kumar said the system is flawed. “The matter should be investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the High Court should monitor the investigation,” he said.
He also rubbished the allegations against Bihar Social Welfare Minister Manju Verma. “If someone related to the Minister is involved, they won’t be spared. But why is this issue being raised only now. We had called her (Manju) and she denied any involvement. How is it justified to level baseless allegations?”
He added that the issue wouldn’t have come out had his government not called for a report on shelter homes in Bihar.
On Sunday, 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.