- There were instructions for action against the home last June: government
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Officers in eastern Uttar Pradesh's Deoria district did not act against a shelter home in the Deoria town, despite clear instructions from the government as early as June last year and a criminal case filed just 10 days ago against the woman who ran the shelter home, the Yogi Adityanath-led government has agreed. 21 girls and three boys were recovered from this shelter home in a police raid on Sunday night and have alleged sexual and physical abuse at the shelter.
The UP government has also decided to recommend a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation or CBI. At a late night press conference in Lucknow on Tuesday, UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath admitted that the district administration in Deoria had to answer many questions.
"Our inquiry has found that the shelter home was running in its current form since 2009. In June 2017, our government had ordered that the home be closed and the girls be sent to other homes, but this was not done despite repeated letters from our side. The District Magistrate was transferred yesterday and we are issuing him a chargesheet. An FIR was filed against the shelter home owners on July 30. Still no action was taken. A senior police officer will inquire into the role of the police", the chief minister said.
A two-member UP government investigation team looking into the allegations of sexual and physical abuse with girls at the shelter home submitted its report on Tuesday evening, but it's still not clear whether sexual assault has been confirmed.
18 girls are still reported missing from the shelter home - one of them, 21, was recovered from an old age home in the Gorakhpur city on Tuesday evening - five people have been arrested from Gorakhpur.
Police sources say they are trying to trace the other missing girls. The list of 42 girls was a floating list and that girls come and leave from shelter homes like these, say cops. The list of 42 girls was last updated on July 31 and the police are looking to account for each of the 18 girls - some of them could have simply gone home. The police are also looking at whether the NGO had inflated numbers by putting up fictitious names on the list to get more private funding.
In a village 30 km from Deoria town, a couple whose 15-year-old daughter was recovered from the shelter home on Sunday night, say it has been a desperate wait to have her back for about 20 days now. The couple also alleges police complicity with the accused - Girija Tripathi - who ran the shelter - ensured their daughter was sent to the shelter in the first place. The couple's daughter went missing on July 18 from their village - she allegedly eloped with a man from their village - the son of the local Pradhan. The girl's father says he managed to file a police complaint or FIR with the local cops the next day. The girl was recovered by the police on July 25, but her father says they did not contact the parents at all - instead sending the girl for a medical examination and then producing her before a magistrate who ordered she be sent to the shelter home.
At the local police station, officers are unable to explain why they did not inform the parents and ask them to appeal for custody in front of the magistrate. "I finally managed to meet her in court. She told me she and the other girls were only given food once in two days and the food was not even fit for animals. She also told me they were made to work very hard and sweep the floor. I don't believe the gift anymore. She must have had a lot of clout. If not then how come her licence was on hold and yet girls were going there?" says the father, in tears.
Deoria's police chief refused to be interviewed for the story, but told NDTV the cops had no option. The police say there is no other shelter home in Deoria for girls and the closest shelter homes are in other districts and it is not physically possible for them to be sending them away and then again bringing them back to be produced before juvenile justice boards. The police also say they had no idea that sexual abuse allegations were part of what was going on there.