The horror of the Muzaffarpur shelter home has jolted the nation but the government in Bihar is yet to be shaken out of its slumber. The entire episode has not only exposed a disturbing and depressing aspect of society but also extreme callousness of the administration. Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar came to be known with the moniker of susashan babu (the good governance man) but his silence on the rape of minors in the shelter home has tarnished his image. It also reflects on the Bharatiya Janata Party which is part of the ruling coalition in the state.
The government cannot wash its hands of the swirling controversy by merely saying that it has ordered a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe monitored by a high court justice. The Bihar police filed the FIR after a Tata Institute of Social Science audit exposed large-scale sexual exploitation in the shelter home run by NGO Sewa Sankalp Evam Vikas Samiti. One of the reports claimed that the main accused in the case, Bharat Thakur, spent three weeks in a local hospital after being arrested before being sent to jail. That was after he was accused of raping 34 minor girl inmates. It is only after an outcry in the media and angry reactions across the nation that the Bihar government swung into action and suspended 14 officers of child protection units for sleeping over the TISS audit report submitted way back in April. Meanwhile, there is no action against the higher authorities.
Nitish Kumar, after keeping silent as the news of the torture and abuse of girls began emerging initially termed the incident shameful. He may have been hampered by his own political battles but as chief minister he can scarcely proffer any reason for not taking immediate action. Governor Satya Pal Malik intervened and wrote to the chief minister and the centre on the need to move the cases to a fast track court.
Bihar Opposition leader Tejasvi Yadav of the Rashtriya Janata Dal organised a protest rally at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar which was joined by Congress president Rahul Gandhi and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. Even as the Muzaffarpur rapes had come as a shock and neighbouring Uttar Pradesh was rocked by sexual abuse in Deoria shelter home. Union minister for women and child development Maneka Gandhi minced no words by claiming there will be no more Muzaffarpurs and Deorias in the country. But mere words will not help the cause as the government should press for a nation wide audit of shelter homes. The culprits should be dealt with the new law giving death penalty to child rapists.