Purulia, June 24: Forty teenaged girls of a government home in Purulia today broke open the lock of the main gate and walked 3.5km to the district judge’s court to lodge complaints of neglect and misbehaviour by a section of employees.
The three women constables at Ananda Math Ashram, which shelters rape victims, orphans, destitutes and those subjected to underage marriage, tried to persuade the girls against leaving the building but failed.
The immediate trigger appeared to be an altercation between a 16-year-old inmate and an employee this morning. The Group-D employee allegedly slapped the girl for plucking flowers in the garden.
The other inmates protested and threatened to complain to the home superintendent. “But the employee acted arrogantly and told us we were free to complain to whoever we wanted and that nothing would happen to her,” an inmate said.
The girls, all between 14 and 17, then decided to approach the district court, which had sent them to the home.
Today being a Sunday, the judge was not present. But the girls refused to leave and sat on the court stairs.
The constables who had followed them informed their superiors. When the sub-divisional officer of Purulia (East), Sudipta Bhattacharya, learnt of the protest, she went to the court and tried to persuade the girls to return to the home, assuring them that their grievances would be looked into.
But the girls refused to budge. They told the SDO they were given bad food and not provided adequate clothes. They also said their rooms were damp and did not have fans, which made the heat unbearable in summer.
“There are no female doctors to examine us when we are unwell. A pharmacist is called whenever any of us falls ill. He uses foul language,” a 16-year-old complained. “All the toilet doors are damaged,” she added.
The girl said several complaints had been made to the home superintendent but “nothing had been done”.
“How long could we bear with such negligence? So we decided to seek the magistrate’s help because his court had sent us to the home,” she said.
Bhattacharya called up additional district magistrate (ADM) Hrishikesh Mudi, who arrived at the spot. The girls then told him of their grievances.
The ADM took the girls to the conference hall of the district magistrate’s office nearby and held a meeting with them. Home superintendent Dalia Acharya was also called.
The ADM admonished Acharya and said he would visit the home tomorrow to conduct an inquiry, sources said.
Mudi assured the girls that their complaints would be looked into. He asked Acharya to immediately repair all the toilet doors and provide adequate food and clothes to the girls, the sources said.
“The girls were satisfied with the steps the ADM initiated and went back to the home in a bus. The girls left around 7.30pm,” an official said.
“We have decided not to take any action against the girls for breaking out of the home,” Mudi said.