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All 26 girls ‘missing’ from illegaly run shelter home in Bhopal found safe, director Anil Matthew booked under Juvenile Justice Act

According to NCPCR Chairman Kanungo, a missionary was running the shelter home without any license. He added that the rescued children were kept secretly in the house and were made to “practice Christianity”. 

On 6th December (Saturday), Madhya Pradesh Police stated that all the 26 girls who were feared to have gone ‘missing’ from an illegally run children’s home in Bhopal were safe. They were found at their respective homes. According to the state police, all the 26 ‘missing’ girls were found living at their homes and the scare was because of a lack of paperwork maintained by the illegally run Shelter Home.  

Bhopal district superintendent of police, Pramod Kumar Sinha said, “Preliminary investigation has suggested that the ‘missing’ 26 girl children have in fact returned to their respective homes when they did not feel comfortable in the shelter home.” He, however, added that statements of these children are being taken and action will be taken in the case based on their statements.

Additionally, on Saturday, Chief Minister Mohan Yadav asserted that tough action will be taken in this case of illegally run Child Shelter house. Assuring that all girls are safe, he said, “The missing girls from the children’s home have been verified. All the daughters are safe. They have been identified. Not a single culprit will be spared in this matter.” 

Notably, the reports of 26 girls missing from an illegally run Child Shelter home came to light on Thursday (4th December). The illegal Missionary run-shelter home was busted during a surprise inspection by National Commission for Protection Of Child Rights (NCPCR) chairman Priyank Kanungo when he visited the Aanchal Girls’ Hostel in the Parwalia area on the outskirts of Bhopal. During the inspection, Kanungo found that there were entries of 68 girls in its register, but 26 of them were ‘missing’.

He said, “Most of the more than 40 girls aged between 6 and 18 are Hindus.” According to NCPCR Chairman Kanungo, a missionary who was managing the children’s home rescued some children from the streets and was running the shelter home without any license. He added that the rescued children were kept secretly in the house and were made to “practice Christianity”. 

However, it has been revealed that the girls are safe in their respective houses and it was the shelter house that failed to keep records. According to the officials, all 41 remaining girls have been shifted to registered shelters.

The authorities take stern actions against officials

Taking stern action in this case, the authorities have suspended three officials of the Women and Child Development (WCD) department for negligence. Two other officials have been served show-cause notices. Officials said that shelter director Anil Mathew has been booked under the Juvenile Justice Act following a complaint filed by a WCD official.

Asserting that the shelter was running illegally, Bhopal SP (rural) Pramod Kumar Sinha said that the home wasn’t registered and the orphans were kept there without permission from the Child Welfare Committee.

The suspended officials have been identified as WCD officials Komal Upadhyaya, Brijendra Pratap Singh, and Manjusha Raj. Deputy director Ramgopal Yadav and district programme officer Sunil Solanki have been served show cause notice. 

SP Sinha said that as per the complaint, the shelter was found to be located in an agricultural field in an isolated area. 

According to the FIR, Anil Mathew who earlier ran Railway ChildLine had registered many orphans through outreach programmes in various areas without obtaining permission from the CWC. Further, there were no CCTV cameras on the premises and instead of only female guards as specified in rules for girls’ shelter homes, it had two men among four security guards deployed on night duty. 

Furthermore, Bhopal Collector Kaushlendra Vikram Singh on Saturday added that an investigation into foreign funding-related issues and other aspects, including religious conversions at the children’s home was also being conducted. He added that strict action would be taken against whoever was found guilty in the matter.

The FIR in the case was registered at Parwaliya Sadak Police Station in Bhopal under sections of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015. Director Anil Mathew is booked as an accused in the case.

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