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Minor girl’s body not found after excavations at Bihar shelter home

A social audit report of all the 110 shelter homes in Bihar by ‘Koshish’, a field unit of the Tata Institute of Social Services (TISS), said girls were being ill-treated in at least six of the shelter homes. The report said the inmates, all minors, were sexually exploited, used as sex slaves, and some of them were pregnant.

india Updated: Jul 23, 2018 20:43 IST
Ajay Kumar
Ajay Kumar
Hindustan Times, Muzzaffarpur
Bihar shelter home,Muzaffarpur,POCSO
Police had taken permission from a local POCSO court to conduct a search and exhume the body from the shelter campus in Muzzaffarpur.(ANI Photo/Twitter)

Excavations at a shelter for girls in Bihar’s Muzzaffarpur on Monday failed to unearth the body of a minor girl allegedly killed and buried there a couple of years ago.

Police had started digging the 1000-odd square feet campus of the short stay home on Sahu Road in Mithanpura after it took the permission of a special court that deals with offences under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act. The police used an earth-mover for the excavations that lasted a couple of hours under the supervision of an executive magistrate.

“We found nothing in the exercise to substantiate murder and burial of a minor. We are conducting a thorough investigation and police is working independently,” Muzaffarpur SSP Harpreet Kaur said. Kaur added that soil samples collected after the excavation would be sent to a forensic laboratory for testing.

Other inmates of the short-stay home had alleged that office bearers of the state government-funded shelter home buried the minor girl in the campus after killing her.

The Muzaffarpur short-stay home shot into infamy in February this year after a social audit report of all the 110 shelter homes in the state by ‘Koshish’, a field unit of the Tata Institute of Social Services (TISS). The report said girls were being ill-treated in at least six of the shelter homes, including the Muzaffarpur one. The TISS report said the inmates, all minors, were sexually exploited, used as sex slaves, and some of them were pregnant.

The report blamed officials of a NGO, Seva Sankalp Evam Vikas Samiti, that was engaged by the state’s welfare department to run the short-stay home, for the exploitation of the girls.

Acting on the report, which had by then rocked the state government, the welfare department sent a medical team to examine the girls at the Muzaffarpur shelter. The medical team confirmed sexual assault of at least 21 girls following which FIRs were lodged against the NGO and few government officials. Police soon arrested 10 persons, including the Muzaffarpur short-stay home in-charge, Brajesh Thakur, who also printed and published three newspapers in English, Hindi and Urdu from the same building. Two officials of the state welfare department were also booked and sent to jail.

Meanwhile, the 47 inmates were shifted to safer short-stay homes in Patna, Mokama and Madhubani where the girls recorded their statements with a judicial magistrate.

At least two inmates, who were shifted to a shelter in Patna, told a judicial magistrate that officials of Seva Sankalp Evam Vikas Samiti had killed a 14-year-old girl after she resisted a bid to sexually assault her, police sources said.

Police had then taken permission from a local POCSO court to conduct a search and exhume the body from the shelter campus.

One of the girls, who had levelled serious allegations against the NGO, later allegedly fled from the Madhubani home.

Wary of security of girls in other shelter homes, the state social welfare department has now decided to rope in transgenders for their security.

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has already given his go-ahead to the department’s proposal and asked the officials to ensure the safety and security of the inmates.

On Monday, Leader of the Opposition, Rashtriya Janata Dal’s Tejashwi Yadav, alleged the chief minister was protecting his ‘close aides’ associated with the sex racket and demanded a Central Bureau of Investogation probe to expose those involved.

Leaders of the ruling Janata Dal (United) said Tejashwi’s allegations were baseless. They said that government is committed to exposing and penalizing all those involved.

First Published: Jul 23, 2018 20:13 IST