The girl Chouhan took pity on in Uttarakhand had allegedly sought to make a quick buck to treat ailing brother

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has had a first-hand experience of this maxim during the last few days. On July 1, Mr. Chouhan, his wife Sadhna and Chief Secretary R. Parasuram flew in with 60 people of Madhya Pradesh rescued from Uttarakhand. Among them was a girl who identified herself as Snehlata alias Neha, aged 18, from Gwalior.

The girl had appeared at the MP relief camp in Haridwar in June 29 in a bedraggled state, saying that she had lost her parents Suresh and Lakshmi Sharma and siblings. She claimed she had been looking for them for days and had grown weak without food. Mr. Chouhan hugged the girl in front of TV cameras at Bhopal’s Raja Bhoj airport.

Mr. Chouhan, who has two sons of his own, then tweeted that he would adopt her as his 10th daughter and permanently appoint her in the State government. This would be in addition to the Rs.5 lakh the State grants to orphans whose parents have died unnatural deaths. The girl, under the care of Ms. Sadhna, was brought to Jai Prakash Hospital as she complained of uneasiness.

The mobile number given by the girl was found to be registered in Bhind. District Collector Sibi Chakkravarthy traced the family to Mehgaon. The girl was eventually identified as 22-year-old Neha Sharma, daughter of a farmer named Mahavir Prasad Sharma. She is an agent of the Life Insurance Corporation. Two of her siblings live in Gwalior. Most interestingly, none of them had been to Uttarakhand.

“The girl told her family she was going to Delhi for LIC work on June 27. We had traced her Facebook profile and accessed photos of her and her sister. I asked the tehsildar to send them to Bhopal,” Mr. Chakkravarthy told The Hindu. Incidentally, her Facebook friends list has a number of Kashmiri police officers on it.

On July 2, her father and sister Ayushi reached Bhopal. At the hospital, Neha refused to recognise them. Later, she recognised her sister, but refused to identify her father. “I came here because tehsildar sahib told us our daughter is in Bhopal. They are asking me for identification papers. What proof must a father carry,” he said.

Ayushi and Mahavir Sharma gave multiple versions of the sequence of events, all of which maintained that Mr. Sharma and his wife had gone to Kedarnath. When they returned home, they were told that their daughter had gone to look for them.

Around 20 police personnel were deployed in front of Neha’s ward and the press was denied an audience. Her father and sister also were not found in the hospital after 7 p.m. The government published a press release on their website on Tuesday, which was soon taken down.

The Congress lost no time in slamming Mr. Chouhan for the fiasco. “The Chief Minister’s attempt to seek cheap publicity brings his role under suspicion. He must come clean on why he went out of the way to adopt this one girl, and now why there is a police cordon around her,” said Opposition Leader Ajay Singh.

On Wednesday afternoon, the family — along with a sedated Neha — was escorted by police was taken to Bhind in an ambulance. Ayushi said that her sister had only tried to get some money for her brother, who is under treatment for gunshot wounds. She called ETV, crying from the ambulance saying, “I don’t know where they are taking us. I must tell the CM the truth”, before the call was disconnected.

Mr. Chakkravarthy confirmed that one of her brothers had received treatment in Delhi for gunshot wounds incurred three years ago.

The CM refused to comment on the issue.

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