Buldhana (Maharashtra): Taking serious cognizance of the incidents of rape of several girl students, at least three of whom are pregnant, the Maharashtra government on Friday derecognized the Kokare Ashram School in Buldana’s Hivarkheda town.
At least 11 accused, including the school’s trustees, headmaster, some teachers, a security guard and a peon of the school have been arrested and charged under various sections of the Indian Penal Code and Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act(POCSO).
Announcing the derecognition of the school, Tribal Welfare Minister Vijay Savra said the 400 boy and girl students there would be accommodated in other neighbouring schools.
He also said all the accused staffers have been suspended and the rape cases against them would be conducted in a fast track court.
The district police had earlier detained at least 15 persons for questioning, including the school staffers, many of whom were later arrested.
Among those arrested are the school chairman Gajanan Kokare, secretary Purushottam Kokare, teachers Gajanan Bhalerao, Ravi Dongre, Deepak Kokare, a security guard and a peon.
Over the past two days, Buldhana police sent teams to various surrounding towns and villages to nab other suspects involved in the incident.
The shocking incident came to light when one girl who had gone to her home in Jalgaon for Diwali vacations complained of stomach pains and a medico diagnosed it as pregnancy.
They informed former minister Eknath Khadse who in turn informed other ministers and officials after which the stunning matter unfolded.
Later, several other girls came forward to narrate the sexual exploitation they were subjected to since the past few months at the residential school.
A majority of the victims are in the age group of 10-13 and belong to backward tribal families from different part of the state.
In New Delhi, a grim Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said none of the culprits would be spared and they would be dealt with very strictly under the laws.
“This is a very grave matter and I have ordered a thorough probe to be conducted by women IPS officers,” Fadnavis said.
Additionally, he has directed the Social Welfare and Women & Child Welfare departments to carry out a survey of all aided and private (unaided) tribal schools by women IAS/IPS officers.
The survey will ascertain the status of the girl students studying/living there, whether standard operating procedures (SOPs) pertaining to these schools are being followed and the problems the girl students encounter.
Buldhana Superintendent of police Sanjay Baviskar and Additional SP Yeshwant Solanke are directly supervising the investigations under the orders of Director-General of Police Satish Mathur.
DGP Mathur told mediapersons that so far 13 persons have been identified of whom 11 have been arrested and a search is on for the other two absconders.
Currently, there are more than 525 tribal residential schools in 10 districts where over 225,000 extremely poor tribal children live and study.
While a majority of them are run by the government, there are several private aided or unaided managed by educational trusts or organizations.