Union minister Maneka Gandhi today warned there could be many more cases of sexual abuse of minor girls at shelter homes that needed to be uncovered and urged states to have a single, large facility for children to prevent their "abuse and misuse" by NGOs.
The comments from the women and child development minister on the dubious state of affairs at shelter homes came a day after 24 girls were rescued from one of these homes in Deoria in Uttar Pradesh amid allegations of their sexual exploitation.
The issue of sexual abuse of minor girls first made headlines in April after the Tata Institute of Social Sciences submitted its audit report of shelter homes in Bihar to the state social welfare department. It raised the possibility of sexual abuse of girls at a shelter home in Muzaffarpur, which was later confirmed by their medical examination.
Following the two back-to-back expose, Gandhi today expressed shock over the incidents and rued there might be many more such cases which have not been uncovered yet.
She suggested that a single, large facility in states will make it easier for authorities to check "abuse and misuse" of children by NGOs, who run the shelter homes funded by state governments. She said adoption and skill development programmes at a single facility would be much easier.
"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," Gandhi said.
"For the past two years, I have been writing to MPs, asking them to inspect shelter homes in their localities. We have even got audits done by NGOs at shelter homes and they didn't report anything unusual which means they have not done it thoroughly," she said.
She said her ministry "would be happy" to fund the construction of a single, central facility in each state and then hand over to the respective state governments.
The FIR in the first major sexual abuse case to come to light this year in Bihar was registered on May 31 against 11 people, including Brajesh Thakur, the owner of the NGO which ran the government-funded shelter home for destitute girls.
Thirty four of 42 minor girls at the shelter home were sexually abused.
The second case was reported from Deoria in Uttar Pradesh yesterday when a 10-year-old girl managed to flee from the shelter home and informed authorities about the plight of the inmates, who were reportedly sexually abused by the couple running the home.
Following that, police raided the facility and rescued 24 girls.
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