PATNA: Even as the Bihar government on Sunday placed under suspension 13 officials of the social welfare department for irregularities noticed at several shelter homes, a rift surfaced in the ruling NDA after a top BJP leader sought the resignation of social welfare minister Manju Verma.
Senior BJP leader and former Union health minister CP Thakur said Verma, who belongs to Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s JD(U), should resign from the cabinet owning moral responsibility for the alleged sexual abuse of minor girls at a state-funded shelter home in Muzaffarpur.
“She (Verma) should own moral responsibility and resign because calls for her removal are growing… She should think of the lapses that were overlooked by her department. The matter should not go out of hand in such a way that it is discussed at international levels,” said Thakur.
JD(U) leaders, however, continued defending Verma and ruling out her resignation or removal from the cabinet. The minister faces allegations of gross negligence in ensuring proper functioning of the shelter homes. Besides, her husband, a former MLC, has been accused of entering the Muzaffarpur shelter home for minor girls without anyone accompanying him. As many as 34 girls were allegedly raped and tortured for years. Eleven people have been arrested in the case so far.
“There is no need for the minister to resign because she faces no charges in the entire episode. Neither her husband nor anyone else should be arrested on the basis of a mere allegation without any basis,” said JD(U) national general secretary KC Tyagi. He also attacked Opposition leaders, including Congress president Rahul Gandhi, for attending the RJD-organised protest in New Delhi on Saturday on the issue.
Bihar rural development minister Shravan Kumar and minority welfare minister Khurshid Alam also strongly defended Verma, saying there was “absolutely no need” for her resignation from the cabinet.
An embattled CM Nitish Kumar said the Opposition leaders were “busy dragging one negative issue” and overlooking all the positive developments Bihar has seen under his rule. “No one who commits a crime will be spared. They will go to jail. Even those who try to protect the guilty will be sent to jail. I have never adopted laxity in matters of crime,” said Kumar at a public programme.
Assistant directors of the social welfare department in six districts and child protection officers (CPO) of seven districts were placed under suspension for delay in taking action after massive irregularities at shelter homes were reported in an audit report of Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS).
The suspended officials include Devesh Kumar Sharma, the assistant director of the social welfare department in Muzaffarpur who had lodged the FIR after the sexual abuse of minor girls came to light. Sharma had also lodged a second FIR in the matter of 11 women inmates missing from another shelter home in Muzaffarpur run by the NGO of Brajesh Thakur, who was arrested on June 2.