OPINION | Governor Advice on Muzaffarpur Shelter Home Rapes Fades Nitish Kumar’s ‘Sushasan Babu’ Halo
His tepid response to the horrific revelation of sexual abuse at a state-funded shelter home in Muzaffarpur marks a setback to Nitish Kumar’s ‘Brand Bihar’ narrative.
Patna: The horrific revelation of sexual abuse at a state-funded shelter home in Muzaffarpur threatens to dent Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s image as ‘Sushasan Babu’ as well as his efforts to pull Bihar out of the notorious BIMARU group of backward states.
Apart from fuelling public anger, Kumar’s silence on the abuse of more than 30 minor girls has also prompted Governor Satya Pal Malik to offer advice.
In his letter to Kumar, Chief Justice of Patna High Court and Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, Governor Malik suggested the formation of fast-track courts for timely disposal of sexual abuse cases. He also advised a thorough probe into the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) report, which first exposed the abuse at the shelter home.
The unusual administrative advice from the Raj Bhavan marks a setback to Kumar’s ‘Brand Bihar’ narrative months after he was conferred the first Mufti Mohammad Sayeed award for probity in public and political life. Though the intent still seems to be there, the CM’s tepid response to the sexual abuse horror seems to have erased a good chunk of the goodwill generated since he came to power in 2015.
His government was quick to claim credit for the TISS expose, saying it was the Social Welfare Department which had ordered audits of shelter homes for children. But when it came to acting on the audit, the CM took two days to recommend a CBI probe despite mounting pressure from activists and opposition leaders. Even the recommendation of CBI probe brought embarrassment as the state police chief had already denied the possibility of probe being transferred.
By appropriating credit for the TISS report, the Nitish Kumar government hoped to appear as the whistleblower like it had done in the SRIJAN scam case immediately after the CM switched over from the grand alliance with Congress and RJD to the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA). This time, however, the strategy seems to have boomeranged with allegations of connivance against officials.
While it’s unconventional for a Governor to offer administrative advice to the CM, it’s not new in Bihar. Governor Malik had reacted strongly to gang-rape cases in Gaya and Nalanda, asking women who feared molestation and eve-teasing to “immediately call up the Raj Bhavan”.
The Governor’s latest advice is a wake-up call for the ‘Sushasan Babu’ if he wants to enjoy the tag till 2019 Lok Sabha elections at least.
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