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Shameful shelter home saga

Shameful shelter home saga

Breaking his silence on the Muzaffarpur shelter home rapes, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar admitted that the incident has left him feeling ashamed and guilty. Over the past weeks, horrifying details have emerged about how the minor girls were intimidated, beaten, starved, sedated and raped by those running the government-funded shelter home. The main accused, Brajesh Thakur, is said to be running a couple of NGOs which were given to run the shelter home for the minors and another shelter home for destitute women. Thakur along with his friends have been sexually exploiting the women and the children over the past four years. He is also said to be running some newspapers and is believed to be an influential person with connections in police hierarchy, local administration, and in the political circles. As the shameful incident made headlines and the opposition parties started accusing Bihar government of the plight of the minor children and women at the Muzaffarpur shelter homes, taking a suo motu cognizance, the Supreme Court has sought an explanation from the Bihar government and the Women and Child Development Ministry on the issue. Bihar, with one of the lowest per capita incomes in the country, has a population of about 100 million people. In absence of major industries, most people are dependent on agriculture. A sizeable number of people also migrate to other states for work and this leaves the women and children vulnerable to exploitation. This incident reveals that despite government spending money for welfare, the condition of women and children is far from satisfactory. The opposition parties have blamed the state government for its inefficiency and not being enough watchful of the activities of its different agencies. They also blamed that Thakur had a close nexus with the people close to the Chief Minister. Responding to these allegations, the Bihar government has recommended a CBI inquiry into the incident and the premier investigating agency has initiated its investigation into the case. The matter first came to light when the Mumbai-based Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) after a social audit of shelter homes in Bihar revealed the physical and sexual exploitation of the minor girls at different shelter homes including the one at Muzaffarpur. Besides expressing his anguish over the incident, Bihar CM Nitish Kumar has also asked the Chief Secretary to ensure that there are institutional safeguards in place to avoid recurrence of such incidents. It is surprising how such a heinous crime continued unabated for years without any government agency getting a hint of it. There is every possibility that the local administration including the police had the information of what was going on at the shelter homes in Muzaffarpur but instead of taking action against the NGOs and their functionaries, they looked away thinking that such incidents are normal. While Bihar CM has an unblemished image as a political leader, his government has not been able to make a turnaround in any area of governance. It has not been able to create employment for the people, with the result that a large number of people, both educated and unskilled workers, migrate to big cities for work. There has been little improvement in the law and order situation and people have little confidence in the efficiency of the administrative machinery. The government and its departments have reduced to virtually become the implementing agency of the routine government schemes. There is no new initiative on the part of the government that inspires the people to think about the government and its departments in a positive light.

Corruption is widespread and people with right contacts benefit from the government schemes more than the intended beneficiaries. The Muzaffarpur shelter home scandal is an example of how the government has failed to choose the right NGO for such a sensitive assignment. In the recent past, the state hogged media headlines for the toppers scam in which many of those who topped the merit list of class XII exams failed to answer even basic questions from the syllabus. After an investigation, it came to light that their parents in collusion with their contacts in the examination board had forged the tabulation of marks. The board exams in Bihar are notorious for mass scale copying and unfair practices. If the government fails to choose an NGO with bonafide credentials and this results in the mass rape of minors, who is responsible? If the government is not able to conduct board examinations in a fair manner and if the results are manipulated to such an extent that just anybody but the meritorious becomes the topper, what is the relevance of the government?

No matter how clean the personal image of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is, his ability to provide an effective administration is clearly doubtful. He must take responsibility for the latest scandal that has left the hapless children of the Muzaffarpur shelter home scared and traumatised.

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