With opposition parties raising serious concern over the alleged sexual exploitation of girls at a children's shelter home in Uttar Pradesh, Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday termed the incident shameful and declared that no culprit would escape action.
Singh also told the Lok Sabha that two senior officials of the state government were probing the matter.
Opposition members, including those from the Samajwadi Party and the Rashtriya Janata Dal, raised the issue and referred to a similar incident at Muzaffarpur in Bihar.
"No culprit will escape action", Singh said, adding that the state government has taken quick action in the case. He described such incidents as unfortunate, sad and shameful.
On the action taken, he said the district administrative officer has been suspended and the manager of the shelter home as well as her husband have been arrested.
Additional chief secretary and a director general level officer are probing the case, Singh said.
The home minister also said that he would ask the ministries concerned to send out advisories to states to ensure that such incidents do not occur in the future.
Soon after the home minister's response, members of the SP, RJD, Congress and TMC staged a walk out from the House.
Amid the protests and heated exchanges between the treasury and the opposition benches, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan said everyone is concerned about these incidents which are not good. She urged everyone not to play politics with it.
She suggested that all members should also keep a tab in their constituencies so that such incidents do not happen.
Twenty-four girls were rescued from a shelter home in Deoria in Uttar Pradesh after allegation of sexual exploitation of the inmates came to light a few days ago. As many as 18 inmates are reportedly missing.
Raising serious concerns about the case, SP member Dharmendra Yadav said strict action should be taken against the culprits. Atrocities have been committed against the girls, Yadav said, adding that he does not want to play politics on the issue.
RJD member Jai Prakash Narayan Yadav also raised the issue.
Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge asked the speaker to set up a House Committee to probe the incidents which have happened in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
Noting that it is a "serious issue", he also said the committee should visit all states and try to find out why such things are happening.
BJP member from Uttar Pradesh Kalraj Mishra said the licence of the children's shelter home was cancelled a year ago and then the matter went to court. The process of shifting the girls and the boys had started, he added.
Holding placards, Telugu Desam Party members also walked into the well seeking to raise issues related to Andhra Pradesh.
Meanwhile, Uttar Pradesh minister Rita Bahuguna Joshi admitted laxity by Deoria administration in shutting down the shelter home from where 24 girls were rescued, saying the district officials were aware about the closure order but allowed the facility to operate for more than a year.
The admission of laxity by the state women and child welfare minister came a day after Union minister Maneka Gandhi said she feared that there could be more cases of sexual abuse of minor girls at shelter homes.
"In June last year, an order was issued for the closure of the shelter home and district magistrate was informed but it was not followed. At least 15 notices were given to the Deoria district magistrate for closure of the shelter home and shift inmates elsewhere. Five letter were sent from Directorate level... Certainly, there was laxity at local level," Joshi told reporters.
About the two-member team of Additional Chief Secretary Renuka Kumar and ADG Anju Gupta probing the matter, Joshi said, "The team has taken statements of inmates and checked records. The records and statements of the shelter home operators are contradictory."
"When order was issued for its closure (last year) there were 28 inmates there, now it had 23 including 20 girls and three boys. The records of the NGO says they had 42 inmates. The attempts are on to trace remaining ones. It will be done in next 24 to 48 hours," she added.
Deoria superintendent of police on Monday told media that 24 girls were rescued from the shelter home.
But the mystery remained about the rest of the girls mentioned in the shelter home register.
"We are doing unbiased probe in the matter and those found guilty will not be spared. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath is monitoring the probe. I will be meeting him this evening and after the probe report action will be taken," Joshi said.
The minister also appeared to shift partial blame on the previous BSP government.
Joshi said the NGO which ran the shelter home -- Ma Vindhyavasini Women Training Evam Samaj Seva Sansthan -- was given government work in 2010, when the BSP was in power.
"It was made girl, child centre, child home, adoption centre and given more work between 2010-2014 during the previous SP and BSP governments."
She alleged the child working committee, entrusted with the task of inspecting such shelter homes were constituted during the S dispensation and "wrong persons" were made its members.
"We are going to initiate action against 70 members... Those involved in discrepancies are now doing agitation. Had we not been sensitive, we would not have lodged FIR and arrested the accused," she said.