The Nitish Kumar government has ordered an inquiry to ascertain why government officials did not act on a report of a top child rights protection body that had raised red flags about the functioning of the Muzaffarpur shelter home for girls, dubbed the house of horrors.
The fresh inquiry comes at a time the opposition is badgering Chief Minister Nitish Kumar for failing to protect the girls and allegations, that the administration did not act swiftly on information that could have ended the abuse at the shelter home much earlier.
Atul Prasad, the principal secretary of Bihar’s social welfare department, who had ordered the audit which blew the lid off the scandal at the shelter home, told NDTV that action would be taken against all officials who did not react to the report from the Bihar state commission for protection of child rights in November last year.
Dr Harpal Kaur, who heads the commission, had earlier told NDTV that she had called out the shelter home run by Brajesh Thakur, a politically connected owner of the non-profit that ran the place. She had reported how many girls were in tears when she inspected the place and had ordered that it should be shifted out. “But nothing happened,” Dr Harpal Kaur had told NDTV.
It was an audit report by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, or TISS, much later that led the police to expose the shocking account of the depravity of Brajesh Thakur and his many accomplices. In all, 10 people have been charged by the police, which have accused a network of police, politicians, administration and criminals of exploiting the girls.
Mr Prasad said once the report came in, the government had acted swiftly, but cautiously. “We also had to make arrangements to shift all the inmates from three shelters” he said, hours after Nitish Kumar broke his silence and described the case as “shameful”, promising strict, uncompromising action.
Nitish Kumar has been repeatedly targeted by the opposition, mainly RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav, who has accused him of trying to shield the accused because of their links with the ruling Janata Dal United.
But the public condemnation hasn’t satisfied the opposition which wants him to sack his Bihar’s social welfare minister, Manju Verma. The minister’s husband has been accused to be close to Brajesh Thakur and according to the wife of a government official arrested in the scandal, used to frequent the shelter home.
Shibha Kumari, wife of Muzaffarpur District Child Protection Officer Ravi Roshan, who was arrested a month ago, has alleged that her husband appeared to have paid the price for doing his job.
“I have been told that the minister’s husband used to visit the shelter home with other people, who waited downstairs while he himself spent time on the upper storey,” she alleged.
The minister has denied the charge but conceded that the husband did accompany her when she visited the shelter home for girls earlier this year. She attributed her decision to take him along to her lack of experience in running the department.
Manju Verma declined to say anything on Saturday about the rapes that took place under her watch and rushed to her car when reporters directed questions at her.