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Loopholes found in security at ashram schools for tribal girls

A committee of women legislators from both the houses of Maharashtra legislature has found many shortcomings in the security at ‘ashram’ (residential) schools for tribal girls.

Also, in some places authorities were seen to be trying to suppress reporting of incidents of sexual exploitation, it said in the report, submitted.

Even the food served to the girls was found to be of sub-standard quality.

The 13-member committee said in its report, submitted today, that in some schools, washrooms or toilets are far away from the dormitory, and were unguarded.

Rs. 5,000 given to victims of sexual atrocities by the Tribal Welfare Department was too meagre an amount, and it needs to be increased to Rs. 50,000, the committee said.

District consultative committees set up under joint chairmanship of district collectors didn’t visit the ashram schools regularly, it said.

Cases of sexual exploitation and other atrocities should be tried in fast-track courts, it said.

Most of the ashram schools are located outside the villages and do not have proper access roads; in some schools the boundary wall is incomplete or broken, it found.

The committee of women legislators was set up in December 2015 following alleged sexual exploitation of two tribal girls at a school at Pandhurna in Wardha district.

The report was tabled by Minister of State for Women and Child Development Vidya Thakur in both the houses.

The committee recommended that CCTV cameras should be installed in ashram schools, and armed women security guards should be deployed wherever possible.

It recommended amendment of rules so that guilty or negligent officials can be dismissed immediately.

There should be `Honorary Guardians’ whom the girl students can approach if they have any problem, it said.

There should also be a toll-free helpline where the girls can lodge complaints anonymously, and local police should visit the schools regularly during night patrolling, it recommended.

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