‘Homes of Horror’: How Nitish’s system failed in Bihar!

‘Homes of Horror’: How Nitish’s system failed in Bihar!

Hari Jaisingh

Having been once projected as the country’s potential Prime Minister for years, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar appears to be a semi-pathetic figure today in governance of Bihar. In the first place, he diluted his own independent identity by embracing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP-led NDA alliance. Whether this will, in the long run, help him emerge as a key figure in national politics is doubtful. Already his “image” is haunted by cases of 34 sexually exploited minor girls at the state-funded Muzaffarpur shelter home. Dubbed as “Homes of Horror”, it was being run by NGO of Brajesh Thakur, who also publishes Hindi daily Pratap Kamal, Urdu newspaper Halaat-e-Bihar and English daily News Next from the same premises. On May 30 as many as 44 girls were rescued.

An influential power-broker, Brajesh Thakur’s sex-abuse games had been going on for quite some time. It is highly upsetting even to talk about his “sex horror stories” of young girls in concert with a former chairman of the district child welfare committee, Dilip Verma, now reportedly absconding. An FIR was filed on May 31 and Brajesh Thakur and 10 others were arrested. The “Home Shelter” is a typical case of how and why Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and his system failed to protect young girls from the clutches of the state-funded sharks. Most of the state-run shelter homes were visited by the state authorities during the past four years but they failed to tick them off for such nefarious activities, apparently on some considerations. Brajesh Thakur used to openly flaunt his “political connections” by publishing his photos with RJD leaders Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar. In 2000, he contested the Bihar Assembly election on a BJP ticket.

By using his press ownership and NGO cards, he even managed to get business from successive governments, No wonder, he could take the system for a ride. My regret is that even Nitish Kumar proved himself to be the usual run-of-the-mill leader. He failed to monitor and tighten his system of governance and ensure safety of poor girls from the “well-connected persons” like Brajesh Thakur. Herein lies the tragedy of the country.

What is disquieting is Nitish Kumar broke his long silence only on August 3 and said, “he is ashamed of the incident” and expressed “aatmagiani (remorse) over the heinous crime. Calling the incident as an “act of sin”, the Chief Minister stated that he had told the chief secretary, DGP and other senior officials to find out any serious flaw in the existing system.

Well, there are flaws and flaws in the system not only in Bihar but in other states as well. In Yogi Adityanath’s UP 24 girls were rescued from Deoria’s illegal Women Shelter Home after a 10-year-old girl escaped and reported the matter to cops that “red, white, black cars” picked up girls at night and dropped them in the morning. The guilty couple has been arrested.

In Chief Minister Shivraj Chauhan’s MP, an organized sex racket is run in the state’s Ratlam and other adjoining districts in the name of a local community’s “tradition”, according to CNN News 18 investigation called “Child Sex Highway”. This is quite a thriving sex racket of minor girls on NH 79. But who cares for ground realities ? CM Chauhan is only bothered about his image-building for the forthcoming elections. Here, again, it is the media which is unearthing grassroots realities before the public. And realities on the ground speak louder than the rhetoric of the PM and CMs.

Looking beyond, I wish to remind all central and state leaders that good governance demands a transparent and accountable system to checkmate frauds, scams and sex scandals against girls and women. It is the duty of state functionaries to protect and ensure safety of girls.

In this context, I wish to recall the words of wisdom in the Arthashastra. It says the “king” alone cannot run the state. He has to be guided by the learned and wise and right type of advisors, counselors and ministers. Kautilya states that an ever vigilant, loyal and devoted team would keep the treasury full. Ironically, today’s system is tilted in favour of the rich, the mighty and sex operators for the promotion of their businesses.

Coming back to the case of Brajesh Thakur, this NGO operates five shelters and gets yearly grant of Rs 1 crore from the Centre and the State. In a supervision report filed against the NGO-cum –newspaper owner, Town DSP had alleged that Thakur “ran a sex racket and supplied girls to officials to get tenders” for government projects. Even the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) had stated as far back in April that “several girls (had) reported about violence and being abused sexually”. Even Muzaffarpur’s social welfare department reportedly gave an adverse report as far back as 2013.  Several official bodies however, looked the other way.

May I ask Chief Minister Nitish Kumar: Is this your concept of good governance? What about his own moral values?

A philosopher once categorically remarked, “Man is a beast when shame stands off from him”. We have to find an answer to India’s growing ranks of Brajesh Thakur-like “beasts” without any sense of shame. They thriving under the system of shamelessness that we see in the “New Class” in public life!

Mercifully, the Centre has called for social audit of 9,000 institutions in the country for children who are abandoned, orphaned or rescued. Parliament has also adopted a law giving death sentence for rapists of girls below 12 years of age. The moot point is: why restrict death sentence for such crimes committed against girls below 12 ? Why not extend the ambit of age beyond 12? What is equally important is quick verdict from fast-track courts against the guilty.