Govt Admits to Harassment of Girls in SC/ST Schools

Bhubaneswar: The cases of harassment of female inmates studying at the Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe residential schools in Odisha seem to be going unabated in the state as, according to the government’s estimates every year, more than one girl becomes pregnant in such institutions.

The SC and ST welfare department, in their written submission before the Odisha Assembly, Friday, admitted that in the past decade, 16 cases of pregnancy of tribal and SC students were reported from the residential SC/ST schools with an average of 1.6 girls (say 2) per year getting pregnant.

The matter drew attention when the issue was raised in the Assembly and a response by the government related to the data of harassment and pregnancy from residential government SC/ST schools was sought. The response from the government was related to the time period of 10 years from 2009 to 2018.

According to the written statement as submitted by the SC and ST Welfare Minister of State Jagannath Sarka, most of the cases of minor pregnancy from such institutions were reported from areas far off from Bhubaneswar, Cuttack and Puri. The district which reported maximum cases of teenage pregnancy is Nabarangpur with four such cases from a single school-Badambada High School among others. Other schools with erring reports are from the districts of Koraput (2 cases), Malkangiri (2 cases), Dhenkanal (2 cases), and Sundargarh (2 cases).

On the other hand, the state government also admitted that cases of reported mental harassment have been witnessed from many such erring schools. The government report claims that in the past decade i.e. from 2008-2019, a total of 14 mental harassment cases were reported.

Disturbed by the issue, the Odisha Assembly took up the issue of safety of tribal girls residing in such educational institutions (looked after by the state government) under the Adjournment Motion. Congress Parliamentary Party leader Narasingha Mishra cited some reports published in Orissa POST on the issue to attract the attention of the House on the matter.

Other Congress, BJP and BJD leaders also took part in the discussion held Friday on the issue in the House. However, the presence of MLAs during the discussion on the topic was recorded as less as 19 per cent at a certain point of time during the debate.

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