The Women and Child Development Ministry has ordered social audit of over 9,000 child care institutions across the country in the next 60 days, a senior official said today, after reports of alleged sexual abuse of minors at shelter homes in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh surfaced.
The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights has been tasked with carrying out the audit and it has been asked to submit its report to the ministry in two months, he said.
The audit would also take into account the condition of children living in these institutions as well as background checks of the NGOs running these child care institutions.
There are a total of 9,462 child care institutions in the country, out of which 7,109 are registered with the government. Though most of the funds to run these child care institutions are provided by the government, the states generally find NGOs to run these institutions.
Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi has urged states to have a single, large facility for children to prevent their "abuse and misuse" by NGOs.
She suggested that a single, large facility in states will make it easier for authorities to check "abuse and misuse" of children by NGOs, who run the shelter homes funded by state governments. She said adoption and skill development programmes at a single facility would be much easier.
The Union minister said these homes run by NGOs should only provide temporary shelter to women, girls and children in distress only after clearance by the Child Welfare Committee.
She said her ministry "would be happy" to fund the construction of a single, central facility in each state under the Nirbhaya Fund and then hand it over to the respective state government.
"For the past two years, I have been writing to MPs, asking them to inspect shelter homes in their localities. We have even got audits done by NGOs at shelter homes and they didn't report anything unusual which means they have not done it thoroughly," she said.
In a letter written by her in August, 2017, Ms Gandhi had noted that there were reports of poor living conditions as well as malpractices in these homes.
She had written to the MPs that the ministry has given "a detailed standard operating procedure and specified day-to-day monitoring mechanisms" which should be followed and urged MPs to inspect child care institutions in their respective states.
The comments from the women and child development minister on the dubious state of affairs at shelter homes came after 24 girls were rescued from one of these homes in Deoria in Uttar Pradesh amid allegations of their sexual exploitation.
The issue of sexual abuse of minor girls first made headlines in April after the Tata Institute of Social Sciences submitted its audit report of shelter homes in Bihar to the state social welfare department. It raised the possibility of sexual abuse of girls at a shelter home in Muzaffarpur, which was later confirmed by their medical examination.
Following the two back-to-back expose, Ms Gandhi had expressed shock over the incidents and rued there might be many more such cases which have not been uncovered yet.