India’s Supreme Court, which is hearing the case of 42 girls allegedly raped in the publicly funded Seva Sankalp Samiti shelter in the city of Muzaffarpur, in the eastern state of Bihar, has condemned the state government for granting public resources to an NGO without checking its credentials.
The investigation has confirmed the rape and physical abuse of 34 girls in the shelter ran by Brajesh Thakur, who was arrested on June 2 as the primary suspect. A police charge-sheet details a network of police, politicians, administration, and criminals exploiting and torturing the girls.
The case uncovered in a report submitted by the Mumbai-based Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) to Bihar’s social welfare department in April. The report pointed out 15 similar state-funded institutions in Bihar, which are under investigation.
The Chief Minister of the Government of Bihar, Nitish Kumar, has refused to heed calls to oust his Social Welfare Minister, Manju Verma, placing blame for crimes on a “system flaw.” He also announced NGOs would no longer run shelter homes, and that the state will take over the administration of all shelters. There is no specific timeline for this change.
Other announced measures include the installation of CCTV cameras at all homes to facilitate complaints.
On Monday, the government of Bihar suspended 23 officials and staffers, including six assistant directors of child protection units for “negligence” and failing to submit reports on the sexual attacks despite having the TISS report since April.
In July the Indian police raided the premises and rescued 44 girls, and search for the bodies of girls who were allegedly killed after being raped and buried there.
Women and Child Development Minister, Maneka Gandhi, said Tuesday these cases are not happening exclusively in Muzaffarpur, but also in the city of Deoria, in the state of Uttar Pradesh.
“I have been asking for a scheme where each state should have a single large facility to house all such girls and children which should be run by the state government,” with the goal of preventing “abuse and misuse” by NGOs, she affirmed.
Lawyer Aparna Bhat, who was appointed as an amicus curiae in the matter, told the court that no compensation had been paid to the victims of sexual assault at the Muzaffarpur shelter home. The lawyer also said that one of the girls, who was allegedly raped at the shelter home in Muzaffarpur, was still "missing."
The Court has taken steps to protect the survivors by forbidding the reproduction of their images and ordering police to have professional counselors and qualified child psychiatrist to question them.
According to the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), there are nearly 7,300 care homes in India, home to some 230,000 children. Around 1,300 of these shelters are unregistered, meaning they operate illegally with little or no oversight.