Mumbai: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has asked the Maharashtra government to explain reports of sexual abuse and mystery deaths of over 500 tribal girls in state-run ashram schools, an official said on Tuesday.
Taking cognisance of media reports, the NHRC has sent a notice to the state chief secretary seeking his detailed report in the serious matter within six weeks.
The NHRC said that the media reports “are indicative of violation of right to life and dignity of the girl students of the schools and also highlights the negligence and apathy of the authorities”.
The media reported last week that the authorities maintained menstruation records of the minor girls and conducted pregnancy tests on them whenever they missed their period or returned from vacations, and this unethical practice was carried out without parental consent.
The matter was exposed when a tribal girl, who came home for Diwali vacation, complained of stomach pains and later she was found to be a victim of sexual abuse at school.
In the past 15 years, over 1,500 students including 700 girls have died and sexual abuse is suspected to be a reason behind these deaths, the NHRC noted.
Frowning at the state government for not taking any initiatives to redress the grievance, the NHRC pointed out that the state has yet to submit a report to the NHRC on its notice of 10 October, 2016 on allegations of deaths of 740 tribal students in ashram schools, despite a reminder on 26 November.
The NHRC observed that the news reports indicate violation of the right to life and dignity of the girls studying in these schools and also highlight the negligence and apathy on the part of the authorities. It further observed that the state government has not taken any initiative to redress the grievan ce, which is a serious matter of concern because it has not submitted a report to a notice issued on October 10, 2016 on a similar allegation that 740 tribal students had died in ashram schools in 10 years. A reminder was also sent on November 26, 2016, the commission added.
A probe revealed that the authorities keep menstrua tion records of the girls and conduct urine tests on them to rule out pregnancy, whenever the girls miss their periods or come back from vacations.
Last year, when a tribal girl student of one such school in Khamgaon taluka of Buldhana district went home for Diwali, she complained of pain in stomach. She was found to have been sexually assaulted by a sweeper of the school. The school accommodates 70 girls and does not have a female superintendent.