This Article is From Dec 02, 2016

Unmarried Mothers Prime Targets For Baby Traffickers In Bengal

Unmarried women are approached by private nursing homes with an offer to have the baby and sell it

Kolkata: As the West Bengal CID investigates the baby selling racket in the state in which babies were transported in biscuit cartons, there have been arrests in two more districts including West Midnapore and Burdwan. The state is now looking to plug loopholes as more and more cases of baby selling are identified. A pattern has emerged in the investigations and police officers say poor and unmarried women are primary targets of baby traffickers.

Unmarried and pregnant women are approached by many private nursing homes with an offer to have the baby and sell it. Sometimes these women are simply duped and in some cases, couples who don't want to part with their babies are also duped.

Three members of a family and a nurse at Midnapore Medical College Hospital were arrested after they tried to sell the baby of an unmarried girl in the family. A tip off to the police resulted in the arrests just as the family was receiving the payment. The baby girl's price tag was Rs 5,000.

On Monday, a Burdwan nursing home owner and an aide were arrested for trying to sell a baby girl. The asking price was 10,000 rupees.

Confirming that the family was from a poor background, West Midnapore Superintendent of Police Bharati Ghosh said, "All these people started looking for a customer to sell the baby. A police team approached them disguised as customers. After taking the money, when they handed over the kid, we arrested them and recovered the baby."

Lawyers who deal with trafficking cases say demand is more than supply at adoption centres so traffickers flourish as there is very little supervision. More importantly many families and unmarried mothers fear that they will be ostracised so they choose to sell off their babies.

"The (adoption) procedure was a bit complicated earlier but right now the procedure is very simple. The new act (Juvenile Justice Act) has simplified the procedure for adoption. People, who do it, do this for money," said Debashish Banerjee, a High Court lawyer who deals with trafficking cases.

The West Bengal government is embarrassed and says it is stepping up vigil at nursing homes, especially in remote areas.

Women and Child Development Minister Shashi Panja told NDTV that her department would chalk out measures to prevent these crimes after meeting CID officials who are investigating the case.

"I have made it mandatory for my district child protection unit to visit every home and every SAA every week and to submit their performance report to us through the DM," Ms Panja said.

More than 20 arrests have been made in the last 10 days including several doctors and at least 15 infants have been rescued. But the worry is this is just the tip of the iceberg.