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Need institution mechanism to avert Muzzafarpur scandal: Nitish Kumar

Breaking his silence, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar expressed deep anguish over the Muzaffarpur shelter home sex scandal and stressed on the need to develop institutional mechanisms to prevent recurrence of such incidents.

Kumar expressed his anguish over allegations of sexual exploitation of minor girls at the state-funded shelter home, at the launch of ‘Mukhyamantri Kanya Utthan Yojana’, a scheme run by his government for welfare of girls, in Patna.

Medical examinations of 34 out of the 42 shelter home inmates have confirmed they were sexually exploited. The owner of the shelter home, run by NGO ‘Seva Sankalp Evam Vikas Samiti’, Brajesh Thakur, is the main accused in the case.

The issue was first highlighted in an audit report submitted by Tata Institute of Social Science (TISS), Mumbai, to Bihar’s Social Welfare Department in April.

“An instance has come to light in Muzaffarpur. It has left us with a sense of shame and guilt,” Kumar said.

“We have always said that the guilty would not be spared and Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi has said on the floor of the assembly that we would ourselves like the CBI probe to be monitored by the high court,” Kumar said.

An FIR in the matter was registered on May 31 against 11 persons. Ten out of them, including Thakur, were arrested on June 3. One was absconding.

Bihar Police submitted its chargesheet against the 10 persons on July 26 before a Protection of Children from Sexual Offences court in Muzaffarpur. The state government on July 26 recommended a CBI probe and the premier investigating agency later took over the probe from the state police in the case.

Speaking for this first time since the scandal broke, the chief minister said he has asked the chief secretary to discuss with concerned departments and develop an institutional mechanism to prevent such incidents from happening again.

“This is essential since the society is inhabited by all kinds of people and they may indulge in perverse acts at the slightest opportunity,” he said.

Bihar Social Welfare Minister Manju Verma, who is in the eye of a storm after the name of her husband cropped up in connection with the abuse case, was present at the programme along with the health and education ministers.

Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi also attended the event.

Verma spoke about working of her department. But, when reporters surrounded her after the programme and sought her comments, she did not answer any questions and moved towards her car, saying “hut hut” (move away) to scribes and camerapersons.

Regional TV channels beamed visuals of her security personnel pushing and shoving mediapersons when they were seeking her comments on the opposition demand for her resignation in the wake of the Muzaffarpur episode.

Popularly called “Sushasan Babu” for giving good governance in the past, Kumar has faced sharp attacks from the opposition RJD, Congress and HAM for his government providing funding to the NGO without checking its illegal activities.

The state government is also criticised for providing advertisement to newspapers owned by the main accused.

After registration of the case, accreditation of Thakur, who along with the help of his family runs a newspaper in Hindi, English as well in Urdu, has been cancelled by the state’s Information and Public Relations Department. His accreditation with the central government’s Press Information Bureau has also been ended now.

Left organisations supported by RJD, Congress along with smaller parties like Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM), Loktantrik Janta Dal – floated by former JD(U) president Sharad Yadav – and NCP had observed a day-long state bandh on Thursday over the case and also against alleged atrocities against Dalits.

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