The NHRC, to address this laxity on part of the authorities has taken suo moto cognizance of the various media reports highlighting this incident. Furthermore, it has issued a notice to the Chief Secretary, Government of Uttar Pradesh calling for a detailed report in the matter.
A Stitch in Time… Would Have Saved Lives
The media reports state that the girls at the shelter home had been exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms for a few days. However the local administration had informed the State health department about it only last Friday i.e. on 19th June,2020. The Kanpur District Magistrate has found seven pregnant girls living in the home, five of them tested positive for Covid-19. According to him, the girls were already pregnant when they were brought to the shelter home. They had been accepted on the recommendation of the Child Welfare committees in different districts. Nevertheless investigation under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 is going on in all these cases.
Two of the girls had come from Agra and Kannauj in December 2019. Senior Superintendent of Police said all the girls found Covid-positive are being treated at the Kanpur Medical College. The authorities have sealed the shelter home and its staff, quarantined.
Steps Taken by NHRC
The Commission has demanded a report from the State and district authorities which details the health status of the girls. Additionally, it has sought details regarding their medical treatment and the counselling provided to the girls. Moreover, the State Government has to order an inquiry into the matter from an independent agency. The State also has to review health status of the female inmates lodged in shelter homes, across the State. Additionally, they are to issue suitable directives that such incidents do not recur in future.
Furthermore the NHRC has issued another notice to the Director General of Police, UP. The Commission has called for a report regarding registration of FIR in this matter and status of investigation. The Commission has demanded both the authorities to submit the report within 4 weeks.
This is not the first instance that the media has highlighted the laxity of the State. If the media reports have any substance, they would prove that prima facie, the public servants authorities had failed to safeguard the victim girls. Their negligence in protecting the girls’ right to life, liberty and dignity, would be irrefutable. Particularly when they were under the protective watch of the State.