On November 17, Tiruvannamalai Collector KS Kandasamy visited a private children's home in the district after he received a tip off that the institution was not run as per regulations of the state government. When he arrived at the Mercy Adaikalapuram Missionary home, his suspicions were confirmed. He realised that the infrastructure available to children was not adequate. Moreover the director of the home, 65-year-old Luban Kumar, lived with his family on the same premises, a fact that irked the Collector.
But just a few days later, Kandasamy discovered that the situation for the girls was far worse, and some had been victims of sexual abuse for years.
When the Collector first learnt that the home had violated infrastructural requirements, he immediately ordered the 50 children, majority of whom were girls, to be shifted to a government home, and called for better facilities to be installed in the private home.
"The bathrooms there did not have doors despite so many young girls from the age of five to 22 staying there. In addition to this they were all made to change in one common hall. There was no semblance of privacy for the children. In addition to this, they were being supervised by a male security guard. So, I wanted to take action fast," he reveals.
But on Saturday, days after the children were shifted to a government home, the Collector learnt that his worst fears had come true. The warden managing the government home contacted the Collector stating that three of the girls wanted to talk to him privately. And when Kandasamy visited them, they narrated a tale of sexual abuse and intimidation they faced in the private home for several years.
The three girls, all 14 to 15 years old, made serious allegations of sexual abuse against Luban Kumar. And to make matters worse, his 55-year-old wife Mercy Rani and 60-year-old brother Justin were aware and accommodated the abuse.
"Luban Kumar had purposely removed the doors of all the bathroom stalls where the girls bathed. His room was attached to this bathroom and he would open a window to see the girls showering. In addition to this he had set up a CCTV camera in the hall where they changed and would watch from his room," Collector Kandasamy said. "In addition to this, these girls were made to go to his room to give him 'massages,' where he sexually abused them," he added.
When the girls complained to Luban's wife, they were allegedly beaten up by his brother, Justin.
"The girls were desperate and had nobody to go to. They were specifically targeted because they have no parents. When one girl went back and told her grandmother, she was told to adjust till her education was complete," the Collector revealed. The girls were further made to do the household chores for the family, including scrubbing toilets, cooking and cleaning.
Following this, the Collector ordered the local police to arrest the accused involved. Luban, his wife and brother have been apprehended by the police and booked under the POCSO Act. In addition to this, the private home was sealed on Sunday.