Lucknow/Kanpur: The district administration of Kanpur on Sunday came in for much scrutiny when 57 girls living at a state-run shelter home tested positive for COVID-19.
According to officials, 33 girls tested positive for the virus on June 17, out of which 18 were from the women's protection home, while 15 from the girl’s protection home had COVID-19. Later, on June 21, 24 more girls from the minor shelter home tested positive.
Ajit Kumar, the District Probation Officer, said: “As per my knowledge, eight girls are pregnant at the shelter home and five of them have tested positive (for COVID-19). Two of the pregnant girls have recently delivered children and they are healthy. These pregnant girls were brought here in a POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) case and I think they contracted the virus when they were taken to the hospital. According to me, this is a case of local transmission.”
The DPO said that random samples were collected from the shelter homes on June 12, June 15 and June 16 – reports of 57 persons were positive for COVID-19.
The administration said:
Kanpur District Magistrate Bramhadeo Ram Tiwari addressed the media late on Sunday evening and said that five of the seven pregnant girls had the novel coronavirus. “These girls were already pregnant when they were brought to the shelter home on the recommendation of the children welfare committee, from different districts like Agra, Firozabad, Etah and Kanpur Nagar. The investigation in these cases are underway under the Protection of Children Under Sexual Offences Act (POCSO),” he said.
The district magistrate office confirmed to NewsClick on the phone that two of the pregnant girls were from Agra and Kannauj and that all of the COVID-19 cases were being treated at the Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi Memorial (GSVM) Medical College in Kanpur.
“This case is not akin to the Muzaffarnagar shelter home case. People are spreading rumours that girls got pregnant at the shelter home. We could not access all the documents because the shelter home has been sealed. There will be more clarity when we get the documents regarding the pregnant girls,” Tiwari said, adding: “We will also investigate those who came to the shelter home in the last two months. Meanwhile, all the non-infected girls have been sent to a quarantine facility.”
Poonam Kapoor, member of the Uttar Pradesh Women’s Commission, briefed the media and said that some members of staff had been to Kanpur’s Lala Lajpat Rai Hospital (Hallett Hospital), which could be a possible source of the infection.
“No males are allowed to enter the shelter. Such matters shouldn’t be twisted — the girls were already pregnant when (they were) brought here,” she said, when asked about the pregnant girls.
Kanpur’s COVID-19 Situation:
As of now, Kanpur has 400 active cases of COVID-19, the second-highest in the state. Noida has the highest tally of cases of the novel coronavirus with 577 instances. According to the data released by the government of Uttar Pradesh, there have been 17,731 COVID-19 cases in the state, of which 6,186 are active. So far, the state has recorded 550 deaths linked to COVID-19.
Former Member of Parliament and Vice-President of the Akhil Bharatiya Janwadi Mahila Samiti, Subhasini Ali, has demanded a fair probe in the matter and recommended strict action if there was foul play in the pregnancy of the inmates.
Congress’ General Secretary and eastern UP in-charge, Priyanka Gandhi, wrote on her official Facebook page: “57 girls have found to be infected with COVID-19, two of them are pregnant and one is HIV positive. The case at the shelter home in Muzaffarpur (Bihar) is before the country. A similar case also emerged in UP’s Deoria. So, for another such case to emerge, it shows that in the name of probes, everything is being suppressed. But there are many inhuman incidents happening at state-run child shelter homes.”