Girls at a shelter home operating illegally in Odisha's Dhenkanal district have alleged sexual abuse at the centre following which its incharge was arrested on Saturday, police said.
The privately run home is unregistered and is being operated illegally, Odisha Women and Child Development Minister Prafulla Samal said.
The incident came to light when some girls levelled charges against the home incharge as well as its owner recently, they said.
The girls had alleged that the in-charge, Simanchal Nayak, had been harassing them sexually, physically and mentally for the past two years and they did not tell anyone about it out of fear and shame.
An investigation has been initiated into the case and efforts are on to arrest the home's owner and managing director Fayaz Rahman, Dhenkanal Sub-divisional Police Officer Abdul Karim said.
The inmates are aged between 5 and 16 years, said district Child Welfare Committee member, Niranjan Mishra.
Acting on media reports, District Child Protection Officer Anuradha Goswami and members of the CWC had raided the shelter home located at Beltikiri on the outskirts of Dhenkanal town on Friday, a police officer said.
Ms Goswami had also filed a complaint at Sadar police station in this connection and Nayak was arrested, he said.
Minister Samal said the shelter home has 22 branches in the state and the concerned district collectors have been asked to investigate them and shut them down.
Asserting that strict action would be taken against the authorities of the shelter home, the minister said arrests has been made and policemen are looking for more people.
Steps are being taken to shift the inmates to the nearest child care institutions, he added.
DCPO Goswami said the shelter home violated provisions under the Juvenile Justice Act and was operating illegally in a secluded place at Beltikiri.
Nayak has denied the allegations levelled against him by the girls and said they had done so as he had tried to enforce discipline at the home.
Senior district administration officials visited the home and spoke to the inmates.
Action will be taken after a thorough investigation, a senior official said.
State unit BJP president Basant Panda said a team of the party would visit the home and interact with the inmates and staff at the shelter home.
The centre had directed all the states to inspect child care institutions in the aftermath of the alleged sexual abuse of minor girls at a shelter home in Bihar. A similar case had also surfaced at Deoria in Uttar Pradesh this year.
As many as 539 child care institutions were shut down by the Union Women and Child Development Ministry in different places in the country for various irregularities, the sources said.