A school run by the East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC) in North East Delhi where two minor girls were allegedly assaulted and ‘forcibly undressed’ by an outsider on 30 April, Saturday, does not have a guard at the entrance or a CCTV camera installed on its premises, The Quint found out when this reporter visited the school on Thursday, 5 May.
The Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) on 4 May had issued summons to the EDMC, alleging that a man barged into the primary school and sexually assaulted the two eight-year-old students.
On Friday, the police said that the man had been identified and arrested.
"He removed the clothes of a girl and muttered obscenities at her. Then he walked over to another girl and removed her clothes and his clothes as well. Thereafter, the accused closed the door of the classroom and urinated in front of the students … This is a serious matter and warrants immediate action."Swati Maliwal, DCW Chief
EDMC officials said that they have suspended the principal and a teacher who were on duty at that time. They have also terminated another teacher and issued warning to a deputy director over the ‘security lapse.'
However, the school administration maintained that the CCTVs are supposed to be installed by the EDMC themselves, and guards are to be employed by the body, too.
Talking to The Quint, a senior administrator in the afternoon school batch said,
”This should not have happened. It has been extremely scarring for the students and has shaken everyone up. If we had CCTV cameras and a guard on day duty, it could have been avoided.”
EDMC officials pinned the missing CCTVs on the paucity of funds. Mayor Shyam Sunder Aggarwal told The Quint, “We have been short on funds for some time. As soon as this is resolved, we will install CCTVs in all our schools and employ guards on day duty.”
How Did This Lapse Take Place?
According to school officials, the incident took place on the morning of 30 April, just after students went to class after their morning assembly.
During the day, an attendant who takes care of the school, is expected to keep vigil at all times. However, the attendant told The Quint, "My duty requires me to take rounds of the school, making it impossible for me to guard the gates throughout the day."
In addition, a sanitation workers keeps an eye out, trying to ensure that nobody enters the school from outside.
A guard room was set up in the school two years ago, but it stays empty during school hours. A night guard mans the gates from 6 pm to 7.30 am.
There's another related problem. The school – like many other MCD schools – allows parents inside the premises to take their children to their respective classes before their classes start for the day. The attendant said that he has tried to stop this tradition but in vain.
Mayor Shyam Sunder Aggarwal told The Quint that the unidentified person could have entered the school along with the parents and "gone unnoticed."
The school has around 700 female students during the day and 700 male students in the afternoon batch. The students study from nursery to class 5. Most of the students are from nearby areas, and the school offers mid-day meals to both batches.f
Police Arrests Accused
After the incident was highlighted by the DCW, the office of DCP North East Delhi said that a case has been registered under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. “It was an MCD school and no CCTV was found to be installed at the entrance or inside the school. However, a number of CCTVs have been examined in the vicinity to trail the suspect/accused persons,” the police said.
On 5 May, a portrait of the accused, prepared on the basis of the identity revealed by the girls, was shared by Delhi Police. Two suspects were zeroed in on thereafter.
On May 6, the police said, "after sustained efforts, a suspect was zeroed in and interrogated at length. Various details and information about the suspect were gathered and verified."
Soon, the police arrested a man who was around 40 years old. He was identified as Varun Joshi. The man claimed to have been drunk at the time.
The police said that they were working in tandem with the school officials.
A Concern in Other EDMC Schools?
A parent, whose child used to study in the school till class 5, told The Quint, "I had never seen guards in this school when I used to drop her. But we are still worried … if such incidents are happening here, it could happen in other schools too." Her daughter has now moved to the senior secondary school in the area, also run by the EDMC.
An EDMC employee in another school, who did not want to be named, claimed that only one in 10 schools have CCTV cameras. He said, “I work as a chowkidaar on night duty in a school in Mohan Puri. But there is nobody on day duty. Many years ago, I used to send my daughters to this school. But then I put them in a private school instead because of lack of safety and discipline.”
According to the mayor, the EDMC runs 354 schools. He said that they want to ensure that safety is a priority in all these schools, but their funds are being withheld by the Delhi government.
Recently, the EDMC had blamed the Delhi government for withholding funds, due to which they were unable to pay salaries of teachers. A few weeks ago, the EDMC had said that they could not print certificates for their vendors due to the same reason.