Residents of the slum adjacent to the railway quarters where a <strong>minor girl from Chhattisgarh was raped repeatedly by a Railway Protection Force (RPF) head constable and a staff member of an NGO said that they had harboured strong suspicions about the “illegal activities” happening at the shelter used by the NGO.
Some of them claimed that they had confronted head constable Anil Pawar, who has now absconded, about young couples being forcefully detained in the shelter and alleged extortions from their parents.
Officials with Pune Division of Indian Railways confirmed that the NGO – Siddharth Multipurpose Society – was “allotted” a quarter in the vacant, dilapidated building in the railway colony two years ago after it promised to look after elderly people and beggars staying on the platform and railways wanted to reduce their presence.
“Its role was limited to taking away elderly persons from the railway station and looking after them at its own expense,” said a senior official.
The NGO wasn’t supposed to help distressed minors. This responsibility has been given to Sathi, the only entity that has permission to operate on the station premises for this purpose.
Officials, however, confirmed that the NGO is registered in the name of Siddharth Pawar, brother-in-law of constable Pawar.
The Indian Express visited the spot to find that the shelter occupied four rooms on two floors at the dilapidated four-storey building.
The building, unlike all others, has a tin-sheet compound and an entrance gate.
Residents of the neighbouring slum -Lumbini Nagar – said that the NGO had occupied the building two years ago and the gate remained locked most of the time.
“It had employed 6-8 girls who used to go around the railway station and fetch homeless elderly persons here. Quite a few times, we saw that young couples were brought here. The NGO and the policeman would call their parents and demand money instead of their release. The parents would often spend days outside the building as the couples weren’t released for lack of payment of the demanded money. This has been happening for a while,” said a 41-year-old man who stays next to the railway building.
A female NGO staffer, who hails from Solapur, who was present at the building said that at the time of the couple’s stay at the shelter in September there were five to six girls and as many boys at the building.
She said that she was not aware of the rape allegations. She said that the shelter’s day-to day affairs were managed by Kamlesh Tiwari and one more.
The latter has been arrested by Government Railway Police for rapinng the minor girl.
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Ramdas Bhise, Divisional Commercial Manager in charge of public relations, said that the accused constable Pawar and RPF Inspector (Pune) BS Raghuvanshi have been suspended, the latter for “lax supervision”.
He said that Senior Divisional Security Commissioner Uday Singh Pawar has formed an inquiry committee to probe the incident and submit a report in eight days.
“Assistant Security Commissioner PK Das will probe the case and is being assisted by a lady inspector,” said Bhise.
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