As part of a sting operation, NDTV set up a fictitious office space in Hyderabad to capture on camera the child trafficking gang who said they could arrange a baby in exchange for a few thousand rupees.
A couple came to an appointed place in Hyderabad as we posed as prospective buyers. Ravi, a 32-year-old man, was quite open about what he could do to get us a baby. He said an ultrasound scan centre had revealed his second wife was carrying a girl and he could give us the baby in a week.
"After ultrasound scan, doctor said it is a girl. I can handover baby after a week," he said.
The couple gave other choices too.
"If not that baby, my own sister has three daughters and if that baby is okay, I can hand over to you that baby," Ravi said.
For six months, Ravi came up with different offers that revealed he has a network through which he is sourcing babies from tribal Lambada hamlets to be sold in Hyderabad and elsewhere. In between he even went to jail after what his wife said was a case of female infanticide. He even claimed to have political connections and said he was with the BJP.
Earlier this week, Ravi took us some 80 km from Hyderabad to a private hospital in Kalwakurthy, to show a five-day-old baby which he again claimed as his own.
Ravi demanded Rs 80,000, claiming he needs to pay Rs 50,000 to the auxiliary nurse and midwife to fudge government records that baby had died and the rest for what he called hospital expenses.
"I have to pay the nurse Rs 50,000 so that she can write in the government records that baby died. The last time, I had to keep that baby at my home for almost a month and one night in darkness I rushed with her to Hyderabad and gave her away," Ravi said.
When asked how he will explain to the relatives in the village, Ravi said, "All we need to do is dig a pit, put three stones and shed a few tears saying baby has died. That can all be managed."
Ravi first came alone to check out the location, collect and count the money. His wife handed over the baby, after which the police moved in. Only later we found out four other accomplices had accompanied the couple - they were all arrested.
Achyutha Rao, child rights activist, who had teamed up with NDTV for the sting operation, said the gang had turned baby-selling into a regular business. Ravi, for instance, was a cab driver but his real income came from trafficking babies.
"At least one baby has been saved. This gang has only recently killed one baby and sold three more babies. It is almost like a routine activity, as though babies are commodity like vegetables. It is a shame," Mr Rao said.
The six-day-old baby had been taken from a poor tribal couple with three girl children. Her parents were reportedly promised Rs 15,000.
The six arrested have been sent to judicial remand, accused of trafficking minors.
Mahesh Bhagwat, Rachakonda Commissioner explained that such gangs tend to be repeat offenders because baby selling has become easy money for them.
"If in the last six months, there are more than two cases, we can go for preventive detention. That will be one year in jail, so they don't repeat these offences. We will also try to transfer to fast-track court for speedy conviction. Otherwise, it will take two to three years to go to trial. In between, if they come out on bail, they could again look for easy money like this by selling babies from poor families," he says.
The police are on the lookout for the biological parents of the baby who is now in the custody of the Child Welfare Committee.
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