Police on Monday rescued 24 girls from a shelter home in a town in eastern Uttar Pradesh after allegations of their sexual exploitation came to light, news agency PTI reported. A couple who were managers at the shelter home and its superintendent have been arrested.
Women and Child Welfare Minister Rita Bahuguna Joshi said that Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has sent a high-level probe team to the town for on-the-spot inquiry and asked them to prepare the report by tonight, The district magistrate has also been removed.
A total of 42 girls reportedly stay in the house, of which 18 are said to be missing. The home has been sealed. “Twenty-four girls were rescued yesterday from the shelter home that houses 42 inmates. Eighteen inmates are still missing. We have sealed it,” PTI quoted a police official as saying.
The incident came to light after a girl escaped from there and intimated the police. “Many times white, black and red cars used to come and take away the girls. When they returned in the morning, they used to cry,” the girl alleged.
“When the order to close this institution was made, our people went there and the organisation’s director misbehaved with our team. Today, after a girl escaped from there, we got to know the reality of that place. There have been many big disclosures during the investigation. Twenty-four children have been rescued safely so far,” ANI quoted the police officer as saying.
Women and Child Welfare Minister Rita Bahuguna Joshi said CBI had last year ordered to shut the shelter home but the order was not followed yet. “After CBI inspection last year, it was established that the shelter home centre was running illegally. A direction was issued to shift the inmates and shut it. But this order was not followed,” ANI quoted Joshi as saying.
She further said, “On August 1, an FIR was lodged to shut it immediately as illegal acts were being carried on. One child was rescued yesterday who has filed a complaint. An investigation is underway.”
Meanwhile, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Monday promised strict action against the culprits in the alleged sexual exploitation of minor girls at government-sponsored shelter homes in Muzaffarpur, and 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.
Kumar also 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.