School bus staffer held for molesting 3-year-old

A month after a school bus cleaner was booked for molesting a toddler in a moving bus, Mumbai Police on February 21 registered a similar offence in which a three-year-old girl from a playgroup in Malad was molested by a school bus staffer. Just as in the previous case, a woman attendant was present in the moving bus when the incident occurred, in this case as well.

Sandeep Pandurang Mandale (24), a cleaner in the nursery school bus, was identified by the schoolgirl and booked under the stringent Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 and Indian Penal Code. Mandale, a Santacruz resident, was employed with the school for the past seven months.

On February 20, when the girl reached home from the playgroup, she shocked her father by kissing him on his lips. When asked, the child spoke of her "bus uncle" who did the same to her. "The girl told her father that the 'bus uncle' had kissed her on her lips the previous day on their way home from school," said Mahesh Patil, DCP (Zone 11).

A school spokesperson said, "The transport head and security head of the school accompanied the parent, and insisted the matter be reported to police. The cleaner and the woman attendant were handed over to police."

"We are happy that the child cried foul and the misdemeanour came to our notice; this is the only way for us to know, so we can isolate and discipline the miscreants who the children in their innocence call 'uncle' and 'bhaiyya'," the school spokesperson said.

The matter reached the police after the victim's father approached the school on February 21. The girl pointed to Mandale as her "bus uncle", after which her parents and school authorities approached Malad police. Mandale was arrested and remanded in police custody till Tuesday.

"The woman attendant denied having seen any of the alleged incidents. The accused is not co-operating and we have no eyewitness," said sub inspector Malti Sangle.

Police are trying to establish the sequence of events as the victim can't recollect the entire incident.

Recent Cases

Cases in which Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 has been applied:

January 10 70-year-old Niyaz Ahmad Hasan Raza was arrested for sodomising a 13-year-old girl in Govandi and recording an MMS clip of the act, which he allegedly circulated. This was the first case in which the Act was applied.

January 18 Juhu police arrested Ramesh Rajput, a school bus driver-cum-cleaner for allegedly molesting a four year-old girl inside the bus while dropping her home from school.

January 20 A 9-year-old girl studying in a Urdu medium BMC school at Govandi was molested in the school's toilet by an unknown man.

January 29 The Vanrai police arrested a watchman who molested a 14-year-old school student. He was sacked after the incident.

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