Cracking the whip on Yerawada’s Balgram SOS Children’s Village, the Minister of Women and Child Development Varsha Gaikwad yesterday took stern action, following the three cases reported from the shelter home since February.
At a meeting convened in Mumbai yesterday, Gaikwad issued instructions to revoke Balgram’s licence with immediate effect. The meeting was attended by the state secretary, deputy secretary, and the Commissioner of Department of Women and Child Development department, Speaking to MiD DAY, Gaikwad said, “I have asked the concerned officers to take stringent action against the home. The licence of SOS Balgram will be cancelled.”
The Child Welfare Committee members had proposed suspension of three caretakers -- Sukhada Ramchandra Dandekar, Sunita Bansode and Kusum Dake -- referred as mothers in SOS Balgram. Acting on the proposal, the trustees suspended the three caretakers with immediate effect.
Following the development, the distraught mother of the 8-year-old girl, who was allegedly raped by an inmate at Balgram, called off her hunger strike. The woman had gone an indefinite fast on Tuesday, demanding action against the caretaker who tried to cover up the earlier sexual assault on her daughter.
Satisfied with the action taken, the woman ended her fast after CWC member Anita Vipat served her glass of Kokam sharbat.
Surprisingly, the action comes a day after trustee Rajanikant Nensee had told MiD DAY on Tuesday that the allegations levelled by the survivor’s mother were baseless and that no action would be initiated on the basis of an allegation made by an outsider.
The mother had gone on a hunger strike after she got to know Bansode continued to discharge her duties as usual at Balgram. This even after her repeated complaints to the management that Bansode had earlier beaten up her child when she had complained about the similar incident before Diwali.
The girl’s mother had informed the Balgram authorities that appropriate action from Bansode would have had saved her child from getting raped by the same minor boy who had earlier assaulted her before Diwali.
The woman had told MiD DAY on Tuesday that she had no other choice but to launch a hunger strike. Confirming the same, Vipat said, “We have taken action against the three house mothers. Dake tried to cover up the matter of sexual abuse of a six-year-old girl in the month of February.
Similarly, a case was registered against Dandekar in August this year for causing negligence leading to the death of six-year-old Kalyani Gite. Bansode had beaten up the six-year-old girl when she had complained to her about an older boy trying to sexually assault her. In all three cases, the caretakers have failed to perform their duty towards children and we found that they used to ask children to the household chores too, which is objectionable.”
Manik Bhosale, officiating in-charge of Balgram, said that on the basis of inquiry done by CWC members, the three caretakers have been suspended with immediate effect.
‘File FIR in 2006 rape case’
It seems the saga of sexual harassment of girls at SOS Balgram seems to be never- ending. In an inquiry conducted by CWC members, an alleged rape case of a mentally-challenged girl has surfaced. According to CWC members, a driver raped the girl, but the management did not file an FIR and took action by sacking him to hush up the matter. CWC member Vipat has issued directions to the officiating in-charge of Balgram, Manik Bhosale, to file rape case against the driver.