Lucknow: Twenty-four girls were rescued from a shelter home in Deoria after an allegation of sexual exploitation of the inmates came to light, prompting the Uttar Pradesh government to swing into a damage control mode by removing the district magistrate and ordering a high-level probe.
UP shelter home: 24 girls rescued, 18 still missing
Police said three people, including a couple who ran the shelter, were arrested in connection with the matter.
"Twenty-four girls were rescued on Sunday from the shelter home at station road in the name of Maa Vindhyavasini Mahila Prashikshan Evam Samaj Sewa Sansthan, which has 42 inmates. Eighteen inmates are still missing. We have sealed it," Superintendent of Police Rohan P Kanay said in Deoria.
Taking a serious note of the matter, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath ordered the immediate removal of Deoria District Magistrate Sujit Kumar, UP Minister for Women and Child Welfare Rita Bahuguna Joshi told reporters in Lucknow.
She said Adityanath has sent a high-level probe team to Deoria for an on-the-spot inquiry. The chief minister has asked the probe team to prepare the report by Monday night itself.
"Besides this, the then district probation officer (DPO) Abhishek Pandey has been suspended and a departmental probe ordered against two other officers.
"Additional Chief Secretary Renuka Kumar and ADG (Women Cell) Anju Gupta have been rushed to Deoria and they have been asked to submit their report by tonight," Joshi said.
The minister said that the recognition of the NGO was revoked one year back and funds were stopped.
"We will probe how it was functioning till now and see who is responsible for this," she said.
Abhishek Pandey was the district probation officer when the recognition of the NGO was revoked.
"The probe will be unbiased and strict action will be taken against the guilty. The probe team will talk to inmates and take into account their ordeal while preparing the report," she said.
She said that the chief minister had already issued an order on August 3, after the Muzaffarpur incident in Bihar emerged, asking DMs in UP to check all such shelter homes.
"All DMs have been asked to submit their report within 12 hours," the minister said.
The matter comes in the backdrop of the alleged sexual abuse of young girls at a state-funded shelter home in Bihar's Muzaffarpur which led to a public outcry. Sexual abuse of 34 inmates out of 42 was confirmed in medical examination.
The details of activities at the shelter home emerged when a 10-year-old girl managed to flee from there. She reached a woman police station and informed them about the plight of the inmates.
"Many times white, black and red cars used to come and take away the girls. When the returned in the morning, they used to cry," the girl alleged.
The SP Deoria said the young girl told the police that around 4 pm every day some people came and took away some girls along with the manager with them.
The 10-year-old girl belongs to Bihar's Bettiah city and she also told the police that she escaped because of heavy work load.
Girija Tripathi and her husband Mohan Tripathi, who operated the shelter home, and its superintendent Kanchanlata were arrested, they said.
However Girija Tripathi told reporters that the charges were baseless and payment of last three years was pending, so she was running the shelter home.
The SP Deoria was directed by the UP Police Headquarters in Lucknow to take stern action against the culprits.
"The entire matter will be investigated and the local administration is already taking action. The Women and Child Development Department is also coordinating. The inquiry will be done under proper legal procedure," ADG Law and Order Anand Kumar said in Lucknow.
The medical test of the children would be made by a woman doctor and the statement recorded before a magistrate, Anand said.
The SP said the registration of the shelter home was suspended in June 2017 on report of irregularities found by the CBI and the administration gave an order to shift all the inmates from there.
"But the manager was running the home and told us that the high court has given a stay. When she was not able to show the court order, the administration sent a team to the shelter home to shift the girls but the manager did not cooperate," he said.
A case was then registered against Kanchanlata and Girija Tripathi under section 353 of the IPC (Assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of duty), the SP said.
District Magistrate Sujit Kumar said there was a list of 42 inmates staying there.