Will not be surprised if more cases like Muzaffarpur, Deoria come out: Maneka Gandhi
The second incident of sexual abuse of minor girls in a shelter home , this time in Uttar Pradesh’s Deoria district, is unlikely to be the last such, Union women and child (WCD) minister Maneka Gandhi admitted.
“Many of the government-run shelter homes are in a state of neglect,” Gandhi added.
Since 2015, the women and child minister has written thrice to each one of the over 700 Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha members of parliament (MPs) requesting them to “take out some time and visit” such shelters for women and children in their respective constituencies periodically to check the living conditions as well as the level of care being provided to the residents.
“Checking of these homes at your level can go a long way in ensuring that the women and children are duly protected. It will also enable me to constantly improve the conditions in these homes on the basis of suggestions/reports given by you,” Gandhi wrote to all the MPs in the letters, copies of which have been seen by Hindustan Times.
To date, not one MP has responded , according to Gandhi. “There is hardly any monitoring by state agencies either. I will not be surprised if more cases like Muzaffarpur and Deoria come out,” she added.
On Tuesday, the Uttar Pradesh government said 24 minor girls at the Deoria shelter had been abused. The announcement came even as the Central Bureau of Investigation is looking into the assault of minor girls at a shelter at Muzzafarpur in Bihar.
There are 9000 government run child care institutions and shelter homes for women and girls across the country. While the Centre provides 60% of the funds for running these institutions, states have to shell out the remaining 40%. Usually, the state department concerned (the child welfare or the women’s welfare one) finds an NGO to run the home. In addition to this, there are shelters entirely funded by the state governments. The Deoria and Muzzafarpur shelters, for instance, are funded by the Uttar Pradesh and Bihar governments respectively.
Many of the homes are poorly funded.
“Though the Centre has released the first installment of its share of 60 %, many of the shelter homes have not received any funds from the states in the last two years,” said a senior WCD ministry official who did not want to be named.
Gandhi also said that many of the states are yet to set up child welfare committees (CWC) in all districts, a requirement under the Juvenile Justice Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015. “Those who have CWCs are under staffed,” the minister added.
In the last letter that Gandhi wrote to MPs, in August 2017, she said, “These homes are provided financial support by the WCD ministry under different schemes ….a detailed standard operating procedure has been notified and the day-to-day monitoring mechanisms have been specified. However, reports of poor living conditions as well as malpractices keep coming in about these homes.”
To streamline the functioning of shelter homes and child care institutions and ensure proper monitoring the WCD ministry has proposed that each state have one centralized shelter home with a capacity to house 1000 women and girls. A similar centralized home should house children, it said.
“It will be far easier to monitor one centralized home instead of the present system of having a few dozen such homes in each of the states. Maharashtra for instance has 76 shelter homes, Odisha has 73 and Uttar Pradesh has 72. States do not have the wherewithal to periodically monitor all the homes,” the second WCD ministry official said.