The National Human Rights,NHRC, India has taken suo motu cognizance of media reports that fifty-seven minor girls have tested positive for the novel coronavirus at a state-run children’s Shelter Home in Kanpur district of Uttar Pradesh. Five of them have been found pregnant and one HIV positive. Reportedly, the girls were exhibiting symptoms of COVID 19 for some time but there was delay in taking them to the hospital for tests.
The Commission has observed that the contents of the media report, if true, are enough to prima facie believe that the public servants have failed to provide safeguard to the victim girls and, apparently, were negligent in protecting their right to life, liberty and dignity in the custody of the State .
Accordingly, it has issued a notice to the Chief Secretary, Government of Uttar Pradesh calling for a detailed report in the matter including health status of all the girls, their medical treatment and counselling provided to the girls by the authorities. The State Government is expected to order an inquiry into the matter from an independent agency. It is also expected to review health status of the female inmates lodged in shelter homes, across the State and issue suitable directives that such incidents do not recur in future.
A notice has also been issued to the Director General of Police, Uttar Pradesh calling for a report regarding registration of FIR in this matter and status of investigation. The response is expected within 4 weeks from both the authorities.
According to the media reports, the girls at the shelter home had been exhibiting Covid-19 symptoms for a few days, and the local administration had informed the State health department about it only last Friday on 19th June,2020. Reportedly, the Kanpur District Magistrate has said that there were seven pregnant girls living in the home, and five of them tested positive for Covid-19. He has said that these girls were already pregnant when they were brought to the shelter home on the recommendation of the Child Welfare committees in different districts, and investigation under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act is going on in all these cases.
The Senior Superintendent of Police, Kanpur has reportedly stated that two of the girls had come from Agra and Kannauj in December 2019. The SSP said all the girls found Covid-positive are being treated at the Kanpur Medical College. The shelter home has been sealed, and its staff quarantined.
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