January 27th, 2017
The National Human Rights Commission has asked Maharashtra Government to explain the mysterious deaths of 500 Adivasi girls in state-run ashram residential schools.
The Commission has issued an order to the Chief Secretary of Government of Maharashtra calling for detailed reports on the matter within six weeks.
The commission also observed that the State Government had not taken any initiative to redress the grievance. It has also not submitted any report despite the notice issued on October 10, 2016, on the demise of 740 tribal students in ashrams in 10 years. A reminder was also sent to the state government on 26th November 2016.
A minor Adivasi girl at a residential school in Khamgaon Taluka of Duldhana district, Maharashtra returned home for Diwali vacation and complained of recurring stomach aches. Her mother took her to a doctor who confirmed sexual assault. The girl told her mother how the sweeper employed at the school allegedly raped her for weeks. After few days, a tribal girl from the same class accused the same sweeper of rape. Both the girls were barely 12 years.
There was no Female Superintendent in the school who the girls could approach in a time of distress.
The girls couldn’t comprehend that something dirty was being done to them. They had complained to their headmaster who did nothing. The school hostel accommodated seventy girls and had no female superintendent. Students as young as six years live there at the mercy of male-dominated school staff.
There are 1,200 state-run and tribal residential schools in Maharashtra. They cater to 1.6 lakh female students and 2.3 lakh male students.
1500 students including 700 girls have lost their lives in these schools in the last 15 years.
The cause of death in two-third of the cases was described to be vague such as the students were missing. The schools failed to produce any relevant information related to 12 percent of the deaths. 13 percent were sudden deaths, 17 percent were because of unknown reasons and 23 percent because of severe illness. 31 percent were attributed to suicides as well.
There is no surprise that these schools have turned into a death trap for many students.
Probe by Panel
The probe panel suspected that such alarming number of fatalities could be because of sexual exploitation. The panel also found teachers drunk in the school premises after sunset. There were no security measures, no boundary walls or electricity at night. There were no women superintendents in schools who could ensure that the kids were not exploited. As children belonged to reserved families, they couldn’t discuss this matter with their parents. Also, their families lack resources and courage to take this matter further legally.
Despite such circumstances, students continue to study in these schools as they offer free education, two square meals and clothes.
It is sad that so many students are left to the mercy of careless and irresponsible people. Once the report is received, The Logical Indian requests the State government and the NGOs working in the area to help the victims, their families and also take measures to stop such incidents in future. This is also a good opportunity for the government to provide employment to women as guardians and wardens of the girls at the schools.