Mumbai: A senior official of Women and Child Development (WCD) department has denied media reports of sexual abuse of women inmates at the state-run Navjeevan Mahila Vastigruh in suburban Mankhurd.
In his letter to WCD Commissioner Rajendra Chavan, Konkan Divisional Deputy Commissioner of the department Rajendra Pokharkar denied the media reports of rape and sexual abuse of women at the shelter home.
The facility houses women rescued under the Prevention of Immoral Trafficking Act.
On October 27, 36 women inmates had tried to escape from the shelter home but 13 of them were overpowered and the remaining inmates are still missing.
On media reports alleging poor living conditions at the Vastigruh, Pokharkar said the inmates have given a statement in writing that they get breakfast, lunch and dinner on time and caretakers are well-behaved.
A report, based on the interview of one of the escaped women, published in a tabloid, claimed that inmates were frequently raped by "armed men" who breach the security at the shelter.
The deputy commissioner said in his letter that the inmates help in kitchen work in groups. "They do the work willingly and nobody forces them to do it," he said.
On the security aspect, the letter said the guard at the main door of the shelter is in constant touch with caretakers inside the premises.
"The shelter home has four barracks. Each one has separate toilets. Each barrack has ten toilets and eight bathrooms. Though toilet and bathroom blocks in one barrack are closed for repairs, it is not causing inconvenience," Pokharkar said.
He, however, admitted that the facility is overcrowded. "It has a capacity of 100 inmates but currently houses 212 women. Women who have to be sent back to their homes have been unable to leave because of absence of police escort. There was resentment among the women over this issue," he said.
In September, 17 women had escaped from the facility.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan yesterday ordered a probe by the Crime Branch after media reports alleged sexual abuse of women inmates at the shelter home.
Meanwhile, the WCD department has set up a 14-member committee, headed by BJP MLC Shobha Phadanvis, to review the facilities and security at the shelter home and other women hostels and submit a report with recommendations for upgradation.