THE 10 infants rescued from Purbasha — an “old age home for the mentally challenged” — in Kolkata as part of the state CID’s crackdown on a newborn trafficking racket, are suffering from malnutrition and dehydration, with one even under treatment for cerebral palsy.
Late Thursday, sleuths had rescued 10 infants — all girls aged between one to 10 months — during a raid from the third floor of Purbasha at Kolagachhiya in Thakurpukur. Following the raid, Reena Banerjee, Purbasha’s owner, was arrested. Sources said Reena is the daughter of Putul Banerjee — arrested two days ago in the case — owner of South View Nursing Home in Kolkata, also allegedly involved in the racket.
Sources said newborns from South View were transferred to Purbasha, from where they were sold to childless couples. An initial probe has revealed that at least 50 infants have been sold from Purbasha, the CID had said.
Admitted at the ESI Hospital in Joka, the unhygienic condition of Purbasha had led many of the babies develop skin diseases, while one is also showing symptoms of thalassemia. Sources said the floor on which they used to lay in Purbasha was initially used to cook food.
“All the 10 babies are in the neo-natal intensive care unit. They are stable but have a few complications. While one of them has a very low haemoglobin level, another is suffering from cerebral palsy. A few have developed skin diseases owing to the dirty environment they used to live in,” Medical Super of Joka ESI, S K Choudhury, said. The babies need at least a month of treatment for their health to improve, a hospital official added.
Sources in the CID said the babies used for trafficking were mostly premature.
“They would force feed the babies to make them fit for buying. These babies were not breast fed… and their primary immunity system has not developed,” said Choudhury.
A team from the hospital’s pediatric department are monitoring the 10 babies. “Small children are the most critical to handle and need utmost care… When I saw them for the first time, I couldn’t believe they were humans… they were dirty, none were wearing proper clothes…,” said a hospital official.
Another added: “The babies were wrapped in dirty clothes… they were soiled from head to toe. They were kept on the floor on filthy mattresses… they were exposed to all sorts of insects and bacteria.”
Sources said these 10 babies were brought to Purbasha in a Tata Sumo late November 10 by one Bimal Adhikari and another woman. Late Friday, the CID arrested Adhikari, taking the number of arrests in the case to 16. The employees of Purbasha claimed two women used to take care of the babies but they had fled a few days before the CID raided Purbasha.
“They never came back… Lakhi and another woman, whom we used to call masi, disappeared. There were no one to look after the babies. I was told that they had opened an adoption centre, so I believed them,” said Jahanara Molla, a caretaker for those mentally challenged people in Purbasha.