The Pune city police have arrested four persons, including three women and the founder of an orphanage in Saswad, for allegedly trying to sell a one-month-old baby for Rs 3 lakh. Police suspect that the case may be part of a larger racket. Police have identified the accused as Dipti Sanjay Kharat (30), a resident of Sinhagad Road in Khadakwasla, Latika Somnath Patil (23), a resident of Dombivli East, Thane, Asha Nana Ahire (27) of Ulhasnagar, Thane and Keshav Shankar Dhende (42) of Rajiv Gandhi Colony, Mohammedwadi, Hadapsar.
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Acting on a tip-off to police naik Shankar Kumbhar, a team from the Faraskhana police station, led by Senior Inspector Rekha Salunkhe, laid a trap and nabbed four persons near the Kasba Peth ward office of the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) on Wednesday. Police rescued the one-month-old baby, a boy, from the four accused.
They were arrested under Section 81 of the Child Justice Act 2015 on Thursday, and produced before the court on Friday. The court remanded the four accused in police custody till January 9.
Assistant Police Sub-inspector Mahendra Jadhav, who is investigating the case, said one of the accused, Dipti, was in contact with Keshav Dhende, founder of Nirankar Balgram, an orphanage. Dipti allegedly acted as a middlemen and introduced Asha and Latika to Dhende.
“Investigation revealed that Latika, a former bar dancer, already has two children. She got pregnant again after an affair, and had a boy. She did not want the baby… so she got in touch with Asha, who was looking for women willing to sell their babies. Asha works for a commission… with Dipti’s help, she introduced Latika to Dhende,” said Jadhav.
According to police, Asha and Latika came to Pune with the baby to meet Dhende and Dipti. Dhende allegedly assured them that he would look for families which were willing to adopt.
Dhende allegedly planned to show the baby as an orphan admitted to Nirmal Balgram, and then sell him for Rs 3 lakh. Police suspect that he wanted to sell the baby to couples who wanted to adopt a boy, or to persons linked to illegal adoption rackets. “There is a possibility of a larger racket… we are investigating whether the suspects were involved in selling babies earlier,” said the police officer.
As per the website of Dhende’s orphanage — http://www.nirankarbalgram.org — he is the founder-president of the Nirankar Shikshan Prasarak Mandal. He also runs a hostel, Nirankar Vastigruha, in Jadhavwadi in Purandar district. The website also has news reports about Dhende’s activities, and the awards given to him and his wife Nalini by various organisations. According to the website, both Keshav and Nalini are orphans.
Dhende lived in the Sane Guruji Hospital Orphanage in Hadapsar, while Nalini stayed at SOS Balgram, Yerawada. Dhende established Nirankar Balgram on August 23, 2010, “to build families for needy, orphan, destitute, single parenting children and rehabilitate them for their bright future,” stated his website.
In March 2014, the Child Welfare Committee (CWC), along with child rights activist Anjali Pawar, had raided a children’s home, which was allegedly being operated without a licence by Dhende, at an apartment in Sasane Nagar in Hadapsar.