On the day UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath recommended a CBI probe into the alleged sexual exploitation of inmates of a shelter for girls in Deoria and constituted an SIT to look into the charges, it emerged that even after the suspension last year of the licence for the shelter, police continued to send girls there because there was no other home for girls in the district.
S K Yadav, chairman of the District Child Welfare Committee, told The Indian Express: “I had taken charge in December 2017. None of these girls were produced before the committee, and were sent to this shelter home. The girls were wrongly sent there directly by police even after its licence was cancelled. This was being pointed out regularly in official meetings.”
“The norms are very strict. There are different shelter homes for different age groups and different ones for those with disabilities. The one in Gorakhpur is for the girl child, whereas the one in Ballia caters to women above the age of 18,” Yadav said.
The licence for the Deoria shelter — it was being run by Girija Tripathi who was arrested along with her husband after 24 girls were rescued during a raid Sunday — was suspended by the state government in June 2017. The district has no other shelter for girls. The nearest shelters are in Gorakhpur, 60 km away, and Ballia, about 120 km away. As a result, police stations in Deoria continued to send the girls to the shelter run by Tripathi.
As the inquiry team of the state government submitted its report Tuesday, senior officials of the district administration claimed that several letters were written to the district police to stop sending girls to the shelter home in unauthorised manner.
When his comments were sought, Deoria Superintendent of Police R P Kanay said: “I had personally instructed police stations, and even at the crime (detection) meetings (to not send the girls)… such instances reduced by about 90 per cent but some (police stations) still sent, saying they do not have any other option. Once a girl is recovered, her statement has to be recorded and they cannot keep her at the police station like a criminal. It is not possible to take the girl to another district and bring her back the next day for the statement. They cannot keep her at the child shelter home meant for boys.”
Incidentally, following their rescue Sunday, the girls have been kept at the shelter meant for boys where their statements were recorded Tuesday.
District Probation Officer Prabhat Kumar said the agency running the girl’s shelter had been granted recognition in 2009 and continued to receive government funds until 2016-17. Following allegations of irregularities, a recovery was also made from the agency.
In the neighbourhood where the dilapidated shelter is located, residents say the regular arrival of police constables gave legitimacy to the shelter home and no questions were ever asked.
“She (Girija Tripathi) was considered an influential woman in the area. Senior officials would come for her functions and her photographs used to be there in the newspapers. We got to know from news reports that her licence had been cancelled but she would tell people that she had obtained a stay order. We never questioned because many a time girls were brought by police constables, even until recently,” said V N Sharma who runs a printing press.
“How could we have suspected anything? Police personnel used to keep coming, women constables with women. She was influential. Who could have asked her for the court order?” Sharma said.
Residents claimed that one of the two daughters of the Tripathis runs a shelter for elderly women in Gorakhpur district. The other daughter, Kanchanlata, would help operate the Deoria shelter. The couple’s son is said to be a teacher. Police declined to comment on these claims, saying this was a matter of investigation.
In Lucknow, Minister for Women and Child Welfare Rita Bahuguna Joshi said: “Jab June 2017 mei saari manyata samapt karke is home ko bandh kar diya, usko notice de di, zila adhikari ko khabar de di, jaankari de di… uske baad bhi kotwali dwara aur police dwara bachche kis halat mei bheje jaate rahe… kitne bachche wahan par bheje gaye uske baad, kuch aankre hain, kuch nahi hain, unko hum establish kar rahe hain (When in June 2017 its recognition was cancelled and the shelter was shut, notice served and district officials informed, then under what circumstances did police continue to send children there. How many children were sent there is not clear, we are trying to establish that).”