Not only did the district police continue to send new inmates, including minor girls, to the shelter home in Deoria after it was de-recognised for its financial irregularities, but its supervisor Girija Tripathi continued to participate in official functions — even after the government’s order to shut down the institution.
The shelter home has come now under the scanner for alleged sexual exploitation of its inmates.
On February 9 this year, eight months after her shelter home was de-recognised following financial irregularities detected by the CBI, Ms. Tripathi was invited by the administration to find couples for a mass marriage event organised by the social welfare department of the U.P. government.
Sources said her NGO was chosen out of the five short-listed. Over fifty couples were married at the event, which was attended by U.P. Cabinet Minister Surya Pratap Shahi, newspaper reports of that date show.
ADM (Finance) S. R Gupta confirmed that Ms. Tripathi did participate in mass marriage events of the government as late as in 2018. While the senior official failed to explain why the NGO was picked, he clarified that “no funds were transferred” to the organisation for being one of the organisers. Now under arrest for alleged sexual exploitation of inmates in her shelter home, Ms. Tripathi enjoyed considerable goodwill and clout among the local administration and the police, who honoured her on many occasions.
According to a local source, the previous district police chief had appointed her as the main coordinator of a police project under which compromise meetings were held to sort out differences between quarrelling spouses every weekend at the police lines.
Ms. Tripathi registered her NGO in the 1990s when she was living in a small town called Bhatni in Deoria district. The family later shifted to Deoria where they started the shelter home, gradually building contacts with officials and people of influence to win projects.
According to the State government, the shelter home got recognition in 2009-10 under the BSP rule. After the Samajwadi Party government came to power, the NGO also acquired the status of a child and women protection home, adoption home and correction home, said Rita Bahuguna Joshi, U.P. Child and Women Welfare Minister.
According to the U.P. Child and Women Welfare department, the shelter home received a grant of around ₹90 lakh from 2012 to 2017 under the ICPS.
Over time, Ms. Tripathi and her husband even set up an old age home in neighbouring Gorkahpur. After running it from a rented place in Basharatpur belonging to a local contractor, they eventually shifted to a well-furnished building in Chanakyapuri Colony.
A former female registrar of the old age home, says she quit her job a couple of years ago after she was unable to tolerate the dubious working ways of the owners and their mistreatment of the inmates.
“They would create problems for these old and destitute women. They were not good people. They would not feed the old women. The inmates would tell me Girija Tripathi's daughter (who ran this home) would harass them,” said the former employee now living in Maharajganj.
According to her, Girija Tripathi would visit the old age home to pick up the amount of the grants.
Ajeet Kumar, a former councillor who inaugurated the old age home, says after complaints of mistreatment of inmates he along with BJP MLA Radha Mohan Das Agarwal had once even inspected the place. “I ran a primary health centre in my property and many of these old inmates would come here to pick up medicine as the old age home did not provide them proper medicine. When we visited the place, we found that while they were given basic food, it was not provided on time considering these were old and frail women,” said Mr. Kumar.
While a SIT led by ADG Crime UP has started its probe into the entire incident, the government is also probing the angle of foreign funding through adoptions as the NGO continued to run despite having funds blocked for over a year.
The criminal record of the Tripathis is being probe and according to a senior police officer, in 2015 Mr. Tripathi faced a charge of cheating over an adoption case. What allowed the shelter home in Deoria to function brazenly despite losing recognition has raised questions of the possible political and bureaucratic connections of Mr. Tripathi. A lot could be unveiled after a perusal of the many photo albums and files recovered from the shelter home in Deoria, now sealed. The newly appointed DM of Deoria Amit Kishore, however, said that so far they had not found any external political connections.