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Thursday, November 30, 2023

Pastor impregnates minor inmate of FCRA NGO run ‘children’s home’

Tamil Nadu police have arrested a pastor who absconded after impregnating a 13 year old girl. The victim was an inmate of the ‘children’s home’ run by the pastor and his son. Both raped the girl repeatedly, as a result of which she gave birth to a baby boy.

The 58 year old pastor, Charles, ran an orphanage, Mariella Children’s Home, in Vayalur near Kanchipuram. It is run through an FCRA-registered organisation, Blessing Rock Education and Development Trust, aka Bread Trust. The victim was enrolled in the institution after her parents gave her up in 2005 due to poverty. When she was 13, pastor Charles and his son James raped her. They reportedly threatened her not to reveal it to anyone and locked her up in a room.

Pastor Charles

The girl delivered a baby boy at the beginning of 2021, and the pastor left the mother and child with a woman in Thirumangalam. He told the girl that he would return soon and take her back to the orphanage. The girl waited for the pastor for a year. She escaped from the woman and went to Padmavathi, a relative in Chennai. She filed a complaint with Padmavathi’s help based on which the pastor and his son were booked under POCSO Act.

While his son James was arrested, the pastor was absconding for the past one and a half years. The police had launched a search and following secret information, a special team nabbed him at a hotel in Koyambedu. he has been remanded in judicial custody. IANS reported that the police are investigating whether the pastor had sexually exploited other girls in the orphanage.

Police officers said that bank details of the pastor and the orphanage are also being probed to ascertain whether he was receiving funds illegally and if the funds are being used for purposes other than running the orphanage. It is necessary to probe these details considering that the ‘children’s home’ is run through BREAD Trust, an FCRA-registered NGO. It is listed in the NGO Darpan portal, which gives Charles’s name as the Chairman of the NGO.

From the information available on the Darpan portal and elsewhere, we come to know that the trust was registered in 2008. It should be noted that the victim was enrolled in the ‘children’s home’ in 2005 itself. and has been receiving foreign aid from 2013. Major donor is one Bro Gionluigi, presumably from Italy. In a description given in the portal, the NGO has claimed that more than 72 children reside in their ‘home’. But media reports say that only 16 girls are residing at the institution.

It needs to be probed whether pastor Charles inflated the numbers to get more foreign aid or the girls were sent off somewhere else like the victim. Even though the incident came out a year ago, the FCRA license of the NGO expired only on September 9, 2022. Apart from foreign aid, the NGO also received funds from local donors and was granted 80G exemption status by the Income Tax department.

IANS reported that TN Social Justice Department has ordered a probe into the “functioning of the orphanage and whether funds are being misused,” which means the ‘orphanage’ aka ‘children’s home’ continued to function until recently, even after the incident came to light. It should be noted that Geeta Jeevan, minister of the Social Justice department, is a Christian.

Recently, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights had written to the Chief Secretary and DGP of the state seeking help in taking action against a Christian ‘hostel’. NCPCR had found discrepancies in the functioning of the school ‘hostel’ and conversion attempts as well. It accused the Social Justice Department of not cooperating with the commission in taking action against the ‘hostel’.

Keeping such details and past incidents in mind, one cannot help but question,

1) How many such ‘unauthorised’ ‘Children’s Homes’ exist? Why is there no Mega Drive to close all of them down?

2) Why doesn’t TN Govt. Social Defense Department website list all the JJA compliant, authorised Children’s Homes? and the names of the Trusts which run them?

3) Will TN Govt cancel the Registration of this Blessing Rock Trust?

4) When will its IT exemption certificate be withdrawn?

5) When will officials at the Home Ministry’s FCRA wing start acting suo motu in dealing with FCRA NGOs registration?

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