The National Human Rights Commission has taken suo motu cognizance of a media report that over 500 Scheduled Tribe girls have died under suspicious circumstances in the State run Ashram Schools of Maharashtra over the past decade. Reportedly, there have been instances of sexual abuse of the girl students by the teachers and staff of these schools. Considering the seriousness of the matter, the Commission has issued a notice to the Chief Secretary, Government of Maharashtra calling for a detailed report in the matter within six weeks.
The Commission has observed that the contents of the news report are indicative of violation of right to life and dignity of the girl students studying in these schools and also highlight the negligence and apathy on the part of the authorities. It has also observed that it seems the State Government has not taken any initiative to redress the grievance, which is a serious matter of concern because it has not submitted a report as yet to a notice issued on the 10th October, 2016 on the similar allegations that 740 tribal students had died in ashramshalas in 10 years, despite a reminder on the 26th November, 2016.
According to the media report, carried on the 14th January, 2017, a probe has revealed that the authorities keep menstruation records of the girls and conduct urine tests on them to rule out pregnancy, whenever the girls miss their periods or come back from the vacations. The probe report has questioned the rationale behind this unethical practice which is being done on minor girls without consent of their parents. Reportedly, a tribal girl, who returned home for the Diwali vacations, complained of pain in stomach. She was found to be a victim of sexual abuse at school. Another 12 year old girl also reportedly complained of sexual abuse by a sweeper of the same school, situated in Khamgaon taluka of Duldhana district in Maharashtra. The school hostel accommodates 70 girls and does not have a female superintendent.
It is further mentioned that there are nearly 1100 State run and aided tribal residential schools in the State of Maharashtra, catering about 1.6 lakh female and 2.3 lakh male students. Over, 1500 students including 700 girls have reportedly lost their lives in these schools in the past 15 years. The sexual abuse is also suspected to be a reason behind these deaths.
[National Human Rights Commission]