IT WAS the summer of 2006 when US citizen Ian Anand Forber Pratt, armed with an 18-page adoption court order, made his first visit to Kolkata to trace his roots. On a busy MG Road, a disappointed Ian, then 26, was told by Sree Krishna Nursing Home officials that there were no records of his biological parents, except that he was an “abandoned” infant. Ten years later, on November 28 this year, Ian first read about the massive child trafficking racket busted in Kolkata, and in the midst of it was the same nursing home where he was born.
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“Was I child-trafficked? I will never know,” he says, his hopes for finding his biological parents now bleak.
Hundreds settled abroad, allegedly born and later adopted from Sree Krishna, are flooding social media with queries after the inter-state newborn child racket was busted. On November 24, the West Bengal CID had arrested two people from Sree Krishna Nursing home — owner Partha Chatterjee and daughter Paromita — along with a formerly attached doctor Dr Dilip Ghosh. CID officials are unsure since how long the nursing home has been part of the racket.
The total arrests in child trafficking have reached 20. “We are now investigating all angles. There are various suspects attached with nursing home,” a senior CID official told The Indian Express. Among them is the International Mission for Hope (IMH), a global chain of orphanages that has a tie-up with Sree Krishna. “We have found nothing so far,” the official adds.
In a decade, Ian has exhausted all his options, from visiting city civil court to tracing the doctors and nurses working back in 1980s. He has a picture from 2006, taken outside the nursing home. A woman is leaving the nursing home weeping. “When I look at it now, I wonder whether she was forced to give up her child,” he says.
Ian, born in August 1980, was adopted in October that year by Lawrence Pratt and Rosalind Forber in the USA. His adoption paper said: “The child known as Kenneth is an abandoned child born at Sree Krishna Nursing Home to a young and unmarried woman. Shortly after the birth, the woman left nursing home leaving the child behind and relinquishing all claim.”
‘Young’ and ‘unmarried’ are the only clues he has about his mother. Adoption papers of other children are similar from that nursing home.
Asha Noel, adopted in 1984 by a US couple when she was two months old, has similar vague details about her biological parents. “My reaction to this trafficking is sadness, for the women who experienced loss of a baby and for children who may never find their birth family. This news is making me question whether this continued in 80s.”
Noel, now a mother of two, often thought if she could stand with a placard saying her birthdate outside Sree Krishna on every birthday. “My birth mom might walk by because that is the only connection we have,” she adds. Two years ago, however, she had given up hope of finding them. With this news, she says, “If there is anything, I will be on the next plane to Kolkata.”
Data with the National Crime Records Bureau shows abduction and kidnapping of children took a steep climb from 28,167 in 2013 to 41,893 in 2015 in India. Cases of child trafficking stood at 221 and that of abandonment at 885 across India in 2015. While Kolkata does not surface among cities with high number of cases, investigating authorities believe the real figures in the city are much higher.
The nursing home under spotlight is over 40 years old. According to Switzerland-based Michelle Grannis, her single mother was connected by a local church to IMH in Kolkata. Grannis, 32, has sent letters to the Indian embassy in Switzerland to help track her biological parents. All in vain. “I always had this image that Indian parents are poor and cannot bring up their children. And westerners come to rescue and adopt. After this news, I am shocked. Maybe my mother wanted me but I was taken away from her,” says Grannis.
She has a baby and works for a software company. Now that she known about the child trafficking racket, Grannis plans a visit to India next year.
Similar is story of Cherish Asha Bolton, 33, a teaching assistant in the University of California. She visited India this year for her PhD and to look for anything that directed her towards her biological parents. “Some of my adoption papers are missing,” she says, adding that she has for a few years now suspected something amiss in her adoption procedure. She plans to keep track of what investigations reveal in Kolkata.
Ian has, however, given up hope. Based in New Delhi now, he has visited Kolkata over 20 times since 2006 and worked closely on child foster care and rehabilitation issues in India. In 2006, with Kolkata civil court case no. 301 order, he visited IMH that had facilitated his adoption, and later to the nursing home. There were no records.
He is currently the national program director of Children’s Emergency Relief International. “My duty now is to help the system in India so that other children do not face the same questions I did,” he says.