In a shocking incident, a minor girl studying in Class VIII in a government-run residential school in Kandhamal district gave birth to a baby girl in the hostel on Saturday night.

Even worse was the fact that she was driven out of the institution with the newborn and had to take shelter in a nearby forest fearing for her life. It was only after some time that both were rescued by the district welfare officer and the police who admitted her to the Sub-divisional hospital at Balliguda where doctors attending to her said that she was out of danger.

The Kandhamal district collector Dr Brunda D has disengaged six employees – two Matrons, two Cook cum Attendants, a lady supervisor and an ANM.

The incident took place at a residential school run by the Tribal and Rural Development department.

The collector has also recommended suspension of the headmistress concerned.

After the news spread in the area, the angry locals gheraoed the institution and tried to assault the headmistress and the staff. They also staged a road-blockade demanding the arrest of the culprits and stern action against the errant employees of the institution.

A 3rd-year student of a local college has been arrested in connection with the case, said Charulata Mallick, the district welfare officer of Kandhamal. District collector Dr Brunda D said, “As per the directions of the government we have taken stringent steps against the errant and already submitted a preliminary report to the government.”

It may be stated here that cases of sexual assault have often been reported from such institutions in the district. “Official reports showed there were three incidents in the residential schools of the district in the last three years,” said Ashok Parida, secretary of Kandhamal Vikash Parishad.

The lapses are glaring since as per rules, these residential schools are to be visited regularly by doctors to conduct health check-up and monitor the well-being of the students. The officials are also supposed to conduct surprise visits and interact with students, check the food that they are being served etc.

Apparently, none of these instructions was being followed as this particular incident reflects.

Mahila Congress president S Jena on Sunday demanded the resignation of the minister of tribal welfare. Jena alleged that the residential schools run by the tribal welfare department had become dens of corruption and nefarious activities. Very often students desert the hostels and return home alleging ill-treatment, poor management, and insufficient food, she said while referring to other such instances across Kandhamal, Koraput, Rayagada, and Mayurbhanj districts.