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Saturday, June 10, 2023

Rape accused office bearers on run- Children in Odisha Christian Home left to fend for themselves

In a shocking incident Odisha police and district administration had to shift the inmates of Lutheran Mahila Samiti Child Care Centre after the office bearers of the centre went absconding and left the children to fend for themselves. Some of the office bearers have been accused of raping, sexually exploiting and threatening a woman employee working at the centre and selling her babies. There are also allegations of abusing the minor children.

In April the Odisha State Commission for Protection of Child Rights launched an investigation into the issue of a woman employee being repeatedly raped by the house father and the brother of the president of Lutheran Mahila Samiti (Lutherans are Protestant Christians and form the largest part of it folowing the teachings of Martin Luther). The woman gave birth to two children in 2016 and 2018 respectively due to this. The child born in 2018 was that of Jagannath Tripathi, brother of the organisation’s president Pramila Tripathi.

The victim has accused Pramila of selling both her babies to two childless couples without her consent and threatening her to not reveal it. While one of the rapists, Kunjabihari Das was arrested in April, Jagannath Tripathi and Pramila Tripathi went into hiding. Police are in the process of asserting the paternity of the children through DNA tests. As the office bearers went absconding, children residing at the so called ‘Child Care Centre’ were left to fend for themselves.

As the office bearers have not been turning up for investigation fearing arrest, the district administration took matters into its hand and shifted the inmates to another Child Care Center. Police are investigating multiple cases involving rape, sexual abuse and minor torture. Lutheran Mahila Samiti, an FCRA NGO ‘was identified as a specialised adoption agency that works with the help of Union Ministry of Women and Child Development’s Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA)’

The Child Welfare Committee(CWC) and District Child Protection Committee of Kendrapara, Odisha worked with Lutheran Mahila Samiti in enrolling homeless, wandering, abandoned kids into Child Care Institutions and giving them up for adoption. In 2018, a girl found wandering in a railway station was given up for adoption to an Italy based couple through Lutheran Mahila Samiti. It was recognised as an adoption agency in 2015. Since then four children were given up for adoption through the organisation until 2018 to US and Italy based people. This is only the official figures and as there are accusations of babies being sold illegally it’s unclear how many children have been victims of this racket.

Lutheran Mahila Samiti also runs a correctional facility for juveniles and an old age home. It received grants from the ministry of social justice and in 2015-16 it was awarded Rs.5 lakh as grant under the scheme of Integrated Programme for Older Persons. Apart from this it received around Rs.71.3 lakh aid from the Women and Child Development department of Odisha from 2014 ‘for the maintenance of the children and staff salary’. Government funding such homes without properly investigating their background has led to the government agencies unintentionally aiding crimes on children and women. The religious and FCRA nature of Lutheran Mahila Samiti also seems to have played a role as the local police station didn’t register the complaint initially. Such organisations hold power iver local authorities due to the influence they have because of their religious and foreign acquaintances.

Many children in CCCs are enrolled as orphans despite having parents due to NGOs’ greed to earn money in the name of orphans. However the National Committee for the Protection of Children’s Rights(NCPCR) has taken cognizance of this and directed the CWCs to monitor CCIs regularly and reunite children with their parents and relatives.

(Featured Image Source: Odisha TV)

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