Fourteen HIV-positive children at a shelter home run by a non-profit in Chhattisgarh's Bilaspur were allegedly dragged out by officials who had orders from the district administration to close the facility. CCTV footage shows a lawyer who has been representing the children against being shifted from the facility being pushed by officials.
A police case has been filed against the lawyer, Priyanka Shukla, after the incident at Apna Ghar where 14 children between four and 18 years old have been staying. The police said Ms Shukla started a fight with the officials who had gone to shut down the facility.
When NGO staff Deepika Singh asked for a copy of the order to shut down the facility, the officials started manhandling her, dragged out the children and refused to give a copy of the eviction order, Apna Ghar director Sanjeev Thakkar told NDTV on phone. He shared audio recordings of the children calling him and complaining of alleged misbehaviour by the officials.
@bhupeshbaghel@dmawasthi_IPS86 HC के फैसले के बाद कार्रवाई ज़रूरी थी लेकिन #कोरोना के वक्त एड्स पीड़ित बच्चों को बेघर करके प्रशासन वो सवाल सुनिश्चित कर लेगा जो वो खुद पूछ रहा है,महिला वकील के साथ मारपीट भी आदेश का हिस्सा था? @VTankha@barandbench@India_NHRC@sharmarekhapic.twitter.com/nfMImPDC2v— Anurag Dwary (@Anurag_Dwary) August 17, 2020
Women and Child Development Department officials, accompanied by the police, had gone to the facility.
Bilaspur senior police officer Prashant Agrawal denied the officials manhandled the lawyer or the children. "The officials acted as per the orders of the collector. It was the lawyer Priyanka Shukla who got into a brawl with the officials, who suffered bruises. Shukla was arrested on a complaint by Women and Child Welfare Officer Parvati Verma," Mr Agrawal said.
The NGO's director Sanjeev Thakkar said Apna Ghar is Chhattisgarh's only shelter home for HIV patients run by a non-profit. He said he has been running the shelter home for several years with volunteers. A police case has also been filed against Mr Thakkar, who said he was not at the building when the incident happened.
With a high monthly expense of Rs 75,000, Mr Thakkar said they decided to apply for a grant from the Women and Child development Department, adding their troubles started soon after that.
Mr Thakkar alleged some officials demanded a "30 per cent commission" from the grant, and when he refused, the officials checked the shelter home and claimed they have found certain discrepancies and recommended cancellation of the NGO's registration and shifting of the children.
Mr Thakkar said when they met with Women and Child Development Minister Anila Bhediya, the minister asked questions like how did the children get infected with HIV.
The matter then reached the Bilaspur High Court, which ordered the collector to hear Apna Ghar and take a decision. In March this year, collector Sanjay Alang ordered officials to shift the children. In his order, he said a second report has also cited irregularities at the shelter home.
The children said they don't want to leave Apna Ghar citing discrimination they had faced even in the company of their relatives and at government-run shelter homes.