New Delhi: The Uttar Pradesh Police have uncovered an alleged case of human trafficking and sex trade, in a shelter home in the state’s Deoria district, just a week after girls in a shelter home in Muzaffarpur, Bihar, alleged that they were sexually assaulted.

“The matter came to light when a 10-year-old girl, a native of Bihar, escaped the shelter home and approached the police. She said that the inmates were ill-treated and people would come in cars and meet the ‘madam’ to pick up girls and the girls would come back crying the next day," said a senior official of the state police.

Only 24 of the 42 girls who were officially registered with the non-governmental organization Ma Vindhyawasini Mahila Prakishan Evam Samaj Sewa Sansthan and Girl Child Protection House were found at the home when police raided it after hearing the girl’s account. As many as 18 of the girls were missing.

“A search is on for the remaining 18 girls. The manager of the shelter home, Girija Tripathi, and her husband, Mohan, were arrested as they could not give satisfactory answers about the whereabouts of the missing girls. A case has been registered under various sections related to human trafficking, flesh trade and child labour," superintendent of police Rohan P. Kanay said in Lucknow.

Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath summoned the state’s women and child welfare minister Rita Bahuguna Joshi on Monday. Joshi said in Lucknow that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) found last year that the Deoria shelter home was running illegally and so an FIR was filed on 1 August. “A direction was issued to shift the inmates and shut it. But this order was not followed. A child was rescued yesterday (Sunday) and a complaint has been filed," she said.

The CBI, however, stated that it has not carried out any investigation into cases of sexual assault.

“Allahabad high court on 29 May 2017 ordered the agency to check for financial irregularities committed in 72 districts of Uttar Pradesh, in the implementation of the Sachal Palna Graha Scheme. In that context CBI had also examined Ma Vindhyawasini Mahila Prakishan Evam Samaj Sewa Sansthan. However, CBI had no mandate to explore for maintenance or exploitation going on in the NGO. CBI did not also conduct any investigation for sexual crimes," said a senior CBI official seeking anonymity.

The Deoria case comes against the backdrop of mismanagement and alleged sexual abuse of more than 30 girls at a state-funded shelter home in Muzaffarpur, leading to the arrests of 10 people. Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar said on Monday that action will be taken against people involved in the incident. The chief minister blamed “system flaws" for the incident and refused to yield to opposition’s demands of sacking social welfare minister Manju Verma, whose husband’s name had come up in connection with the Muzaffarpur case.

“Investigations are on. If it is found that she had in any way facilitated any wrongdoing, she may have to go, but (not) because people are making noises," Kumar said. He also announced the decision of phasing out the practice of running shelter homes through NGOs and said that gradually the state government would take over such centres.

PTI and Mint’s Anuja contributed to this story.