MPs, MLAs must visit shelter homes every 2 weeks, says Maneka Gandhi

MPs, MLAs must visit shelter homes every 2 weeks, says Maneka Gandhi

Courtesy : Mail Today28/08/2018 07:26

Every MP and MLA in the country should visit shelter homes in their constituencies once every fortnight to prevent incidents like the horrific mass rape in Bihar's Muzaffarpur, Union Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Sanjay Gandhi said on Saturday.

"I have written to every MP in the last four years saying that all 9,000 of the children's homes in the country have to be checked every two weeks because things happen to the defenceless," said the Union minister, while speaking at the Mail Today Femail Summit, 2018.

"I gave each a list of all the children's homes in their respective areas. Not a single MP has taken it up," she added, responding to a question about the alleged rape, abuse and torture of the girls by the politically connected owner of the shelter home in Muzaffarpur.

The women and child development ministry, she said, had alerted the Bihar State Commission for Protection of Child Rights as well as the state government that suspicious activity was going on at the shelter home in question - six months before reports exposed the house of horror.

"Our concerns weren't taken seriously... nobody did anything," said the minister. Maneka said that even though the government brought in the death penalty for rape of children under 12 years of age, the law did not frighten anybody "because it takes so long for the cases to come to fruition as evidence either disappears or is compromised".

The reason, she found out, was the sad state of forensic labs in the country. "They could only deal with a total of 1,500 cases. So we put money from the Nirbhaya fund into six main labs in Chandigarh, Mumbai, Pune, Chennai, Guwahati and Kolkata. We have also given ads in papers calling for people to join these labs and look only at women's cases," she said.

Saying that her focus as a minister has been on women's defence, Maneka spoke about a government project - which is in the works - to safeguard women whose NRI husbands conspire to abandon them.

There are lakhs of cases where NRI men, who take dowry to get married, just disappear with the money after the wedding. Saying that such cases are widespread in India nowadays, she added that there has been no recourse for the affected women so far.

"After a little while, the husband's parents keep the dowry and ask the woman to get out. Now she is neither married nor unmarried," Maneka said.

The minister said the project, involving external affairs, home and law ministries as well, wants to create a website where all NRIs coming to marry Indians have to register the marriage within a week of the wedding.

"The registrar has to send the details to my ministry so that we can track who is being married in which state." If a husband has left the country and the wife goes to court over a domestic issue, summons will be issued to him on a website that the external affairs ministry is working on.

"The summons will be deemed as served whether he reads it or not... If he does not come back to the country for that date, his parents' property will be put in escrow until he comes back and answers the law."

Maneka said the law ministry is apprehensive about why the parents have to suffer. "But we have found the parents to be involved as abettors in every single such case... A man may not come back for his wife or out of respect for the law, but he will certainly come back if his parents' property is in jeopardy."

Also, most of these men have no property in their names, so we can't take theirs, she added. In the meanwhile, Maneka has collaborated with external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj to set up a three-member team of joint secretaries to cancel passports of the men in such cases so that they will be compelled to come back.

"We do that after an evaluation and talking to the local police," the minister said. Maneka also spoke about an anti-trafficking bill, yet to be passed by the Rajya Sabha, which will treat women as victims in cases of trafficking, provide them with money for rehabilitation and create a system to catch traffickers.

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