An NGO-run shelter home has been sealed in Odisha's Dhenkanal district and two people, including its managing director, arrested following allegations that the minor inmates there were sexually abused, police said.
The action was taken two days after District Child Protection Officer (DCPO) Anuradha Goswami and members of the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) raided the shelter home, acting on media reports which stated that girls were being allegedly abused at the facility.
The in-charge of the home, Simanchal Nayak, was apprehended on Saturday.
"The private shelter home, which has been operating illegally at Beltikiri area, was shut down by the police Sunday in presence of Dhenkanal Sadar Tehsildar U K Mohapatra and the DCPO," a district official said.
The girls at the home had alleged that they were harassed sexually, physically and mentally by Nayak over the past two years.
Nayak had, however, denied the allegations and said he was being framed for trying to enforce discipline at the shelter home.
Dhenkanal Sub-Divisional Police Officer (SDPO) Sk Abdul Karim said the managing director of the shelter home, Fayaz Rahman, and another employee, Udit Lima, were arrested Sunday and the case was being investigated.
Describing the centre as "unregistered and illegal", Odisha Women and Child Development Minister (WCD) Prafulla Samal ordered its immediate closure Saturday.
She said district collectors across the state have been asked to shut down all 22 branches of the shelter home, operated by NGO Good News India.
Dhenkanal District Collector Nikhil Pavan Kalyan said appropriate action would be taken against offenders after a thorough investigation.
Senior officials of the district administration visited the shelter home and examined certain documents, besides questioning the staff Sunday.
The inmates of the Dhenkanal shelter home -- 47 girls and 34 boys aged between 5 and 16 years -- have been shifted to another childcare institution nearby, the Dhenkanal Sadar Tehsildar said.
The incident has triggered a sharp reaction from different quarters with opposition political parties coming down heavily on the BJD government.
Union Petroleum Minister and BJP leader Dharmendra Pradhan demanded the resignation of Samal for the government's "failure" in preventing illegal functioning by an unregistered shelter home.
Senior Congress leader and former Union Minister Srikant Jena said the BJD government has "failed miserably in discharging" its responsibility.
The WCD minister, however, said the issue should not be politicised and asserted that the state government will leave no stone unturned to punish the guilty.
Meanwhile, a fact-finding team of the state BJP, led by its women's wing president Prabhati Parida, visited Beltikiri Sunday to assess the situation.
The team interacted with locals to find out the conditions at the shelter home, sources in the party said.
Hitting out at the state government, Parida alleged that the administration, local police and WCD minister had "knowledge about the illegal home".
Earlier this year, the central government had directed all states to inspect shelter homes in the aftermath of two alleged sexual abuse cases in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.