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Bad operator

Saturday, February 15th, 2014
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The Central Investigative Bureau (CIB) arrested Bishwa Pratap Acharya, operator of an orphanage Happy Home Nepal (HHN), on child-trafficking charges.

CIB’s investigations began on Friday, first with a raid on the premises of HHN’s school – Happy Home International School – in Dhapakhel.

On Friday afternoon, 43-year-old Lojung Kippa Sherpa of Makalu, Sankhuwasabha, filed a case against Acharya, accusing him of lying to her about her children and hiding them from her. CIB then found enough evidence to suggest it was done under Acharya’s directions.

When CIB asked Acharya for the children’s whereabouts, he replied they were at a hostel 15 minutes away from the school. However, two of Sherpa’s children – son Pemba Nurbu and daughter Lhakpa Doma – were found hidden at private residence 500m west of the school. Their elder sibling Phurlamu was rescued from near Nawakiran Ashram in Hattiban. Earlier, Acharya had told police Phurlamu was with his wife Puja in Pokhara.

The children were reunited with their mother at the Lalitpur Metropolitan Police headquarters in Jawalakhel, late on Friday evening.

CIB released a press statement on Saturday saying Acharya would be kept in custody while the case was investigated.

In 2007 Sherpa let her children go to HHN because her sister convinced her about a school that was willing to take care of and educate them. Phurlamu had a disability and Sherpa was told the operators of the school would get it treated.

“I put them on a plane to Kathmandu from Tumlingtar and I haven’t met them since,” Sherpa told Nepali Times before going to the police. “When I came last year to visit, I was told my children weren’t around.”

This is not the first time HHN has found itself accused of illegal activities. In January 2013, its donors moved the Central Child Welfare Board against Acharya for fraud. They also accused Acharya and his wife of physically, mentally, and sexually abusing the children at the institution.

Kanchan Jha of Sano Paila, a Birganj-based organization that works in the rescue of children, claims Acharya had been using Phurlamu’s disability to milk well-meaning donors for treatment money.

Sano Paila works with Freedom Matters, a UK charity that frees and rehabilitates children from slave-like conditions, and was following Acharya’s activities for over a year. Jha insists most of the children at HHN’s school have parents back home and are not orphans or abandoned like HHN claim.

There are currently 43 boys and 35 girls at HHN’s hostel in Dhapakhel.

Sunir Pandey

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