First Muzaffarpur in Bihar, then Deoria in Uttar Pradesh; and one does not know which is next, or when. Use of shelter homes for trafficking of girls has become endemic in this country. Those in the firing line include such unlikely names as Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity. That should really sound the alarm bell as to how much things have been gone wrong. And most disturbingly, some of these involve the high and mighty, which endows the tools of abuse with political patronage.
On the surface, NGOs appear as benign, helpful and, at worst, harmless bodies that do work to promote the betterment of humanity. Many of them do perform philanthropic work, but many others are created right from the start to be nothing more than instruments of infiltration, influence and extortion. And when they fall in the hands of politicians, it becomes a parallel soft power challenging the rule of law, as was the case with Muzaffarpur.
In fact, the NGO route has become very handy for politicians and influence peddlers to pursue their dubious agenda in the garb of charity.
The Muzaffarpur shelter home, in which over 30 girls were raped, tortured and exploited over the past four years, was run by politically well-connected Brajesh Thakur, whose non-profit organisation runs several shelter homes. His wife is a minister in the Nitish Kumar cabinet and that should explain why the racket carried on for such long time unchallenged. The Tata Institute of Social Sciences, which exposed the shelter home rapes in a report, has informed the Supreme Court, hearing a case in connection with the Bihar mass rape, that 15 shelter homes had been red-flagged in its report, but no action was taken.
In Deoria, the Maa Vindhyavasini Mahila and Balika Sanrakshan Griha was just a facade for a couple to run a sex racket after they registered an NGO purportedly for providing shelter to uncared-for girls. The woman, who used to run a stitching centre, today sits on huge assets, including posh properties, and rubs shoulders with the powers that be. Most curiously, her shelter home was frequented by police personnel, which indicates the level of political patronage she enjoyed.
The Supreme Court expressed shock that every six hours a girl is raped in the country. “Girls are raped left, right and centre,” the court said. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, the highest number of cases occurs in Madhya Pradesh, followed by Uttar Pradesh, the two states that are now in public glare for their dubious record. The court regretted that “people and money” have been given to the NGOs managing shelter homes, but no inspections were carried out in them. All this points to a systemic failure in dealing with this most despicable aberration.