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13-year-old's rape at orphanage surfaces 5 months later

After rape by 13-year-old boy takes 5 months to comes to light, only 2 people suspended; no action taken yet against orphanage director

It seems young girls rejected by their families may not be safe even in orphanages, which are supposed to provide a secure and nurturing environment to such helpless children. Giving credence to this observation is the surfacing of the  case of a rape of a 13-year-old girl by a boy of the same age at a high-profile orphanage in Kamshet.


Crime, but no punishment: The Vidyavati Ashram in Kamshet, where
a 13-year-old girl was allegedly raped by a 13-year-old boy.
Pic/ Navnath
Kaple


The case went unnoticed by those who run Vidyavati Ashram, the orphanage where the rape occurred, and also by the Women and Child Development officers till the girl became five months pregnant. So far, the Women and Child Development (WCD) Depar-tment has suspended only the superintendent and a woman caretaker. No action has been taken against the orphanage director, a former businessman called Dr Rajendra Gupta. The DWCD Officer has instructed all 19 boys be transferred to other orphanages.

Also, in what looked like a deliberate attempt to protect the orphanage director, the WCD officers and the police initially tried to keep the matter under wraps by remaining tight-lipped about it. It was only when some sources talked about the rape case that the matter was revealed to MiD DAY. District Women and Child Development Officer Suvarna Pawar, who reportedly visited the orphanage twice, failed to notice the case.

Confronted with the facts of the case, Pawar was more interested in knowing who had provided the information on the case. Finally, Pawar said, "The matter came to light on October 22. We have suspended superintendent Basavraj S Chinnamwar and a lady caretaker. We have also issued orders to transfer the boys elsewhere, which are in process."  On how this major case could have gone unnoticed, she said, "The children were at school when I visited the place."  Reminded that visiting officers are expected to check a register of menstruation cycles and asked whether the register was not checked during her visits, she said, "Nothing abnormal was pointed out; the register was duly signed by superintendent and lady caretaker. We have taken action against them."

Women and Child Welfare Deputy Commissioner Ravi Patil said, "I was on leave, I joined only yesterday. I have to collect information before I can comment on this matter." Police Inspector Rajendra Patil of Wadgaon Maval also seemed reluctant to share any information on the matter, saying the police had been asked not to divulge information on it. Shankar Jadhav, DYSP of Lonavala region, said that the matter came to light on October 18 and the offence was registered against a 13-year-old boy under Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code on October 22.

Jadhav said, "I personally visited the place and conducted the inquiry and I suspect the matter went unnoticed as Superintendent Basavraj S Chinnamwar did not pay regular visits. We have also registered a case against the superintendent for negligence, considering that children were in his legal custody." Jadhav said the boy was produced before the CWC. "The boy was remanded to an observation home," Jadhav said. He said the offence was registered on the basis of a complaint filed by Child Welfare Committee member Amitkumar Banerjee. Child Welfare Committee member Anita Vipat said, "The medical test was performed on the boy on Wednesday. The course of the investigation will be decided once the sperm fertilisation report is available."

The other side
Repeated attempts to contact Vidyavati Ashram Director Dr Rajendra Gupta did not meet with success. He also did not respond to text messages sent on his cell phone.

Child rights experts speak
>> SURYAKANT Kulkarni, a member of the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, said: "The matter was not brought before the commission earlier, but after knowing this we will definitely take cognisance of it as it is a serious case." 
>> Anjali Pawar of Sakhee said: "On numerous occasions I have demanded stringent action against managing trustees of institutions that start these organisations claiming they are doing good for society, but every time they manage to escape from the ambit of the law. If one is running an institution, he or she cannot wash their hands of saying that they had delegated the responsibility to someone else."
>> Sangeeta Punekar, a child rights activist from Mumbai, said: "Children rejected by families are sent to orphanages but there too they are not safe. Consider this case, where the girl could not share this with anyone and it went unnoticed by people who were responsible to take care of these girls. There is no protocol set on who is considered to be liable for negligence and as a result people who are responsible manage to escape."

Can a 13-yr-old boy do it?
DR Yamini Adbe, a member of the International Health Task Force for South Asia, cautioned that it was unlikely that a 13-year-old boy was capable of impregnating a girl his age. "This needs thorough investigation as the girl may have been abused by an elder person along with the boy. A paternity or DNA test is necessary," Adbe said.

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