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Minister vows action against top brass of Vidyavati Ashram

Women and Child Welfare Minister Gaikwad says high-profile orphanage in Kamshet will be shut down if necessary

After a case of sexual exploitation of a 13-year-old girl at an orphanage was reported in MiD DAY yesterday, Women and Child Welfare Minister Varsha Gaikwad took cognisance of the report and assured stringent action against those who run the high-profile institution, Vidyavati Ashram in Kamshet. If necessary, the orphanage would be shut down, said the minister.


Yesterday's MiD DAY report on the rape at the Vidyavati Ashram

A 13-year-old girl was raped five months ago at the Vidyavati Ashram, allegedly by a 13-year-old boy. The matter came to light only after the girl was noticed to be heavily pregnant. So far, no action has been taken against the trustees of the institution, with Women and Child Welfare officials and the police passing the buck on to each other over lack of action. On why the orphanage director was spared and no action was taken against him, District Women and Child Welfare Officer Suvarna Pawar said it was because of the instructions given by the police.

"On October 22, we had asked the police to book those who run this institute under Section 23 of the Juvenile Justice Act, but the police instead asked us to put those charges against superintendent Basavraj S Chinammwar and the lady care taker or home mother Savita Thakur," Pawar said. "So we acted accordingly." 
Wadgaon Maval Police Inspector Rajendra Patil said it was not true that the police had given any instructions on what action should be taken. "It's a lie. We have registered a case on the basis of the complaint given to us and applied appropriate sections," hesaid.

Another girl abused?
Strong evidence has surfaced indicating that the management of the institution was aware that a 13-year-old boy had sexually abused a girl of his age. Allegedly, instead of reporting this matter to competent authorities the boy was left after a warning and small punishment. Insiders said the home mother had even warned the girl against disclosing the matter to anyone, telling her it would ruin her name. The boy had allegedly even attempted to abuse another girl but as she protested he could not go on, said officers from the Women and Child Welfare Department.

They said these background events came to light only after the case of abuse of the 13-year-old was reported to them. Police Inspector Patil said that considering the age of the boy suspected of the offence, the possibility that the girl had actually been abused by an adult could not be ruled out. "We are investigating this angle. As we are busy with other formalities, no statements of other staff members have been recorded so far," Patil said.

Deputy Commissioner of Women and Child Welfare Department Ravindra Patil said, "I have instructed my
subordinate officers to conduct an independent inquiry and record the statements of all 26 girls. Once their report is available we will decide on the action." Minister Gaikwad said strict action would be taken against children's homes if they are found violating the rule to keep boys and girls on separate premises.

3 children's homes closed down this year
>> After the rape of five mentally challenged teenaged girls residing in a Panvel shelter and the sexual abuse of young girls at a Thane shelter was reported, the home was shut down and cases were registered against the caretakers 
>> At an orphanage for mentally challenged girls at Kavdas in Thane district, it was reported that the girls were starved and abused. This home was also shut down 
>> Similar action was taken against an orphanage in Aurangabad when it was pointed out that the children were starved and were not provided enough food

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