Bihar shelter home case: Why SC has ordered CBI probe to move beyond the culprits

Bihar’s Social Welfare Department and decision makers will soon be under CBI’s scrutiny.

 |  4-minute read |   29-11-2018
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With the Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday ordering the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to probe all government funded shelter homes in Bihar and those who run them for alleged sexual abuse and torture of children, the sleuths may go beyond probing not just those who committed the heinous crime but also those who gave mandate and government funds to men of questionable credentials. Clearly, the state Social Welfare Department and the decision makers in the department will soon be under stringent CBI’s scrutiny.

The CBI is already investigating the Muzaffarpur shelter home case where 34 destitute girls were found abused for months by those who operated the government-sponsored short stay home. The SC’s Wednesday order can now expose how the rot has reached deep within, pervading the 110 shelter homes in Bihar, all once sponsored by the state Social Welfare Department.

Tata Institute of Social Science (TISS) had inspected the 110 government-funded shelter homes in Bihar last year, and their report exposed Muzaffarpur shelter home rapes and various irregularities in other government-funded homes. Examples of abuse and violence, though in varying degree and form, were found in almost all shelter homes of Bihar.

Cases of sexual abuse against inmates have also surfaced in Motihari and Kaimur shelter homes, whereas boy inmates in Bhagalpur, Gaya, Araria and Munger had complained of physical violence.

While the state government had registered FIRs against five shelter homes, and a district programme officer in Vaishali was arrested for sexually abusing inmates, it was clear that the police officials probing the cases hardly had the mandate to go beyond routine investigation.

The Bihar Police have so far registered at least 19 FIRs in the aftermath of the TISS social audit report on 110 shelter homes and specialised adoption agencies across the state that were funded by the social welfare department and run by NGOs. All these FIRs and investigation reports would now be handed over to the CBI.

shelter-copy_112918020129.jpgIt's time we punish those who facilitated unscrupulous NGOs to swindle government funds and abuse inmates. (Photo: PTI)

The TISS report, submitted in April this year and internally released by the social welfare department on May 26, led to revelations of rape and torture of at least 34 minor girls at a Muzaffarpur short stay home for minor girls and massive irregularities at several other institutions.

In fact, a section of police officials involved with the investigation process in these cases welcomed the SC order. According to police sources, notwithstanding the FIRs and their ongoing probe, everything could have led to, or just ended, a massive cover-up.

“While the cases have been lodged, the police mandate was limited to investigate what happened — like the disappearance of women from the Muzaffarpur home and molestation in Vaishali or medical negligence in Patna Aasra home case.

The cops could not have probed the social welfare department’s decision of awarding projects to questionable NGOs. Nor could we question why the social welfare officials did not monitor their functioning. In the end, all these cases probed by the police would have fizzled out,” said a police officer in Patna. But with SC handing over all shelter home abuse cases to CBI, it is expected that the investigating agency should go beyond routine investigation.

Incidentally, the involvement of politically connected persons, from Brajesh Thakur, who ran Muzaffarpur Shelter home to Manisha Dayal, a socialite who was sanctioned a lucrative project to run shelter home for 75 mentally ill women in Patna; and the apparent connivance of bureaucrats, businessmen, and countless middlemen, hint at a broader nexus involving powerful bureaucrats of the department.

While both Brajesh Thakur and Manisha Dayal are under judicial custody in separate cases and some field officials have also been placed under suspension, the biggies in the social welfare department, those who selected these NGOs and given them lucrative projects, have so far been off the hook. But, this may not be forever.

But the days of the bureaucrats — those who facilitated unscrupulous NGO to swindle government funds and abuse inmates, could be numbered. The CBI seems ready to come close on their heels.

Also read: Modi government is in office, but not in power

Writer

Amitabh Srivastava Amitabh Srivastava

The writer is a Senior Associate Editor with India Today Magazine.

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