14-year-old patient raped in India’s largest Covid-19 facility
A 14-year-old girl admitted to a 10,000-bed Covid Care Centre in south Delhi’s Chhatarpur — the largest in the country — was raped last week inside the facility by a 19-year-old man who was housed there, the police said on Thursday.
The man and his friend, who stood guard and allegedly recorded the crime at the Sardar Patel Covid Care Centre, have been arrested in the first such known case in the national capital, officials said. Both of them are coronavirus disease patients.
“The girl was immediately shifted to a government hospital, where she continues to receive treatment for Covid-19. The suspects, too, are yet to recover and have been moved to another hospital while they remain in judicial custody,” said Parvinder Singh, additional deputy commissioner of police (south).
A case has been registered under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Pocso) Act at the Maidan Garhi police station.
The alleged crime took place at the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP)-run facility on July 15 night — within a week of the girl and the two men getting admitted to the centre.
The facility, billed as the biggest in the world, is operating out of the Radha Soami Satsang Beas in Chhatarpur and has about 10,200 beds. But just 250 of them are currently occupied.
That leaves much of the space unmanned.
When the facility was opened on July 5, the ITBP said it will deploy 1,000 personnel for security arrangements. But with only a small section of the facility currently occupied, about 100 ITBP personnel work in shifts here to provide security.
“The survivor and the rape accused became familiar with each other during their stay there. On July 15, the suspect called the survivor to a common but isolated spot in the facility on the pretext of speaking to her,” a police investigator said on condition of anonymity.
The suspect asked his 20-year-old friend to stand guard and alert him if someone approached them. Then he allegedly raped the girl in the facility’s washroom area, the investigator said.
The police said the girl also alleged “the suspect’s friend went on to record the crime on his mobile phone and officials were trying to verify the charge”.
The girl reported the crime to an attendant at the facility the next morning. Authorities at the facility then informed the police.
The girl was shifted to a hospital and sent for a medical examination, which allegedly confirmed the sexual assault, according to the police investigator.
The girl came to the centre a week before the alleged crime as her home had no extra room where she could be put under home isolation, said another police officer who didn’t want to be identified.
“There was just another patient who knew her family,” said the officer.
Both suspects have relatives who are admitted in the centre.
Covid care centres are used to house pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic patients and those with mild infections who do not have appropriate isolation facilities at home.
An ITBP officer, who didn’t want to be identified, said: “ITBP’s security personnel are usually not deployed in the bathroom area...This is a disease in which we are supposed to maintain a safe distance from the patients. While we are investigating how the crime happened, we have enhanced the security arrangements here,” he said.
The ITBP officer said the agency’s personnel deployed at the centre reacted “proactively”. “Our doctors immediately spoke to the survivor and made sure the crime was actively pursued by the police,” he said.
At the facility, a small section is occupied by the ITBP service providers while the patients’ sections are on the other side.
About 30% of all patients admitted here are female, a government official said.