Bihar Cancels Licenses Of 50 NGOs Running Shelter Homes, Social Welfare Dept To Take Over
The Nitish Kumar government in Bihar has decided to cancel the selection of 50 NGOs for running shelter homes in the state as reported by NDTV. The Social Welfare Department of the state will take over the administration for these homes. “The government has cancelled NGOs selected recently for running the shelter homes. The Social Welfare Department will take over the management in the next three months,” the department official told NDTV. Till the stipulated time, the NGOs will continue looking after these shelter homes.
The decision comes after the horrifying case of repeated rape and torture of 34 girls at a state-run shelter home in Muzaffarpur was brought to light by an audit conducted by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS).
The audit report by TISS that was commissioned by the state government in 2017, revealed that sexual abuse, in varying forms and degrees of intensity, was prevalent in almost all the shelter homes in Bihar. The Koshish team from TISS had reviewed the functioning of about 110 such shelter homes and shockingly, only seven of them were okayed, as reported by DNA. This was the same audit which unearthed the Muzaffarpur shelter home horror.
A shelter home run by the NGO Sakhi reportedly had cases of physical violence against mentally ill women and girls; at Boys’ Children Home in Motihari district run by NGO Nirdesh, cases of serious physical violence and sexual abuse were reported; at IKARD in Patna, a girl committed suicide following extreme violence in the home, and another lost her mental balance due to the trauma she suffered there.
These are just a few of the many cases outlined in the report, highlighting the dismal conditions of the shelters for children run by nearly 100 NGOs in the state of Bihar.
This has prompted the state government to take due cognizance of the situation. “It has already been decided by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar that NGOs will no longer operate these homes. Hence, around 50 voluntary organisations, which had recently been selected for the purpose, have been cancelled,” an official of SWD told DNA.
The Muzaffarpur Case
The state-run Balika Grih in Muzaffarpur was run by an NGO called Sewa Sankalp Evam Vikas Samiti, and headed by Brijesh Thakur, the prime suspect in the harrowing tale of sexual assault of minors housed in the home.
The state Social Welfare Department had been giving Rs 40 lakhs per annum to the small time reporter for running the shelter home for years. The man was also responsible for running an old age home and a juvenile home as well, bringing the total funding by the state to almost Rs 1 crore per annum.
The shelter home was found flouting many rules – it didn’t even have CCTVs – yet the tender continued to pass for years, without any verification of its credentials. The state’s former Social Welfare minister Manju Verma’s husband has been accused of having close links with Thakur, following which the minister was forced to resign.
During a surprise check of the jail hospital where Thakur was shifted due to his dubious ailments by district administrators and police officers, Thakur was caught with two sheets full of names and numbers of influential people including a minister, indicating that he was still trying to pull strings behind the scenes.
Thakur is just one of the ten accused in the case. Of the 70-something days he has been in custody, he has spent only a few days in the Muzaffarpur central prison jail cell, owing to his supposedly declining health. He hasn’t even been interrogated by the police yet. The case has been transferred to CBI, which is likely to move the Patna High Court with an application seeking custodial interrogation of Thakur.
The Logical Indian Take
Brijesh Thakur and his staff must be punished for their heinous act, however, the state government is equally guilty for allowing the girls to suffer. The negligence of the state government coupled with the silent fear found in the hearts of these children paints a sickening picture of what happens when the powerful protect the criminals.
The state government’s move is a welcome one, but improving the conditions of these homes requires genuine approaches and empathetic outlook towards the suffering children.