Social Audit

Any government worth its salt should keep tabs on the social welfare programmes it undertakes, or else public money would be merely thrown into a bottomless pit. Sometimes though, a social audit could end up unearthing more than sleaze — it could blow the lid off skulduggery on a huge scale. The Muzaffarpur shelter home rapes has put Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar in a tight spot, but the expose was the outcome of a social audit his government commissioned last year, said to be the first of its kind in the State. A team from Mumbai’s Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) carried out social audit of 110 shelter homes, many run by NGOs. Its report submitted in April this year documented widespread abuses, none more than in Muzaffarpur’s Balika Grih run by small-time newspaper owner Brajesh Thakur boasting high-level political connections. It transpires from police investigation that as many as 34 of the 44 girl inmates in the shelter home had been subjected to systematic torture and rape; some may have been used in a sex racket to oblige high government officials along with the husband of a minister. The TISS team made a detailed audit of not just quality of life and rehabilitation of inmates of old age homes, short-stay homes for women and children, shelters for homeless beggars, adoption centres and others, but it also closely interacted with managements and staff to better know about their problems. The CBI has now taken over the case and 10 suspects are already in custody, but the incident has underlined the importance of carrying out regular social audits of government-run or funded homes by accredited agencies.