Sexual harassment: Police seal shelter home in Dhenkanal; BJP condemns move

Dhenkanal: Taking stern action against the Dream Centre Shelter Home, girl inmates of which brought sexual harassment allegations against the in-charge and managing director of the centre on Friday, was sealed by the Sadar police late Saturday night.

The shelter home run by an NGO, Good News India at Beltikiri in the district was sealed in the presence of the local Tehsildar and District Child Protection Officer (DCPO).

The district administration has shifted the inmates of the shelter home through two buses today morning but denied to reveal the place where they have been shifted.

“Investigation is on and the administration requests everyone to provide conducive environment for the inquiry. Further steps will be taken accordingly,” said Nikhil Pawn Kalyan, Collector, Dhenkanal.

On the other hand, a seven-member fact finding team of state BJP led by president of the party’s Mahila Morcha, Prabhati Parida visited the Dream Centre Shelter Home to hold talks with the inmates and locals. However, the shelter home was sealed before their visit.

“After the party announced that a team will visit the shelter home, the concerned authorities closed the centre and shifted the inmates to somewhere in a hurried manner. Attempts are being made to hide the truth; we strongly condemn the move of the administration,” said former Dhenkanal MLA, Krushna Chandra Patra.

“We had come here to talk to the girls so that we could know the truth from them and know if they are pressurised from the concerned administration. We wanted to know the girls’ whereabouts and safety but the collector here seems to be in immense pressure,” said Parida.

Lambasting the BJD over the issue, BJP State secretary Lekhashri Samantasinghar, who was also a member of the fact finding team said, “The concerned officials of State government are saying that the shelter home was running without its permission. There were 94 minor girl inmates living at the centre. The government should clarify if the shelter home was running illegally and they were aware of it, what action did they take to close it?”

She further accused the district collector of shifting the inmates in a hurried manner after the news of BJP women wing visiting the shelter home broke out.

“Why Odia children will be brought up amid exploitation and harassed sexually?  The minister should resign while taking the responsibility for this,” Dharmendra Pradhan, Union Minister.

Meanwhile, Senior Congress leader Srikant Jena said, “The government’s responsibility is to take appropriate steps in this regard. But, it has not taken the issue seriously.”

On the other hand, Women and Child Development Minister Prafulla Samal today said: “There are 22 shelter homes of Good News India illegally running at different places of the State. District collectors have been directed to shut down those centres and take appropriate legal action against the concerned authorities. Stringent action will be taken against all the illegal shelter homes that are running in the State by violating laws under the Justice Juvenile (JJ) Act in the name of giving protection and care to children and measures have already been taken in this regard.”

Sadar police has arrested Dream Centre Shelter Home Project Director Simanchal Naik, Assistant Director Udit Lima and Managing Director Fayaz Rehman and three teams have been formed to probe the matter; inmates are also being quizzed in the matter, Dhenkanal SP Santosh Nayak informed.

Women and Child Development Minister Prafulla Samal had on Saturday informed that the institution was unregistered and running illegally. The Minister had also assured of strong action against the authorities of the shelter home.