Seven out of 13 children rescued after busting of an alleged cross-border child trafficking racket in Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat have been handed over for foster care to the family members of the accused by the child welfare committee (CWC), Alirajpur, on the ground that they had bonded well.
The racket was unearthed on November 11 when a Bhopal-based activist and a sub-inspector of police posed as a childless couple and struck a deal for Rs 1.7 lakh with an Alirajpur-based man who told them he could supply infants, as young as three days old, or children under three years of age to suit their requirement.
The police have arrested 27 people, including a doctor who runs a hospital in Chhota Udepur, Gujarat, middlemen, accomplices and people who bought children. The modus operandi involved supplying children born of unwed mothers, either at the hospital or at home, to childless couples from different states.
The police rescued 13 children, 10 of them born at Kesar Hospital, Chhota-Udepur, and three born at homes as the investigations progressed over the last three weeks. The child welfare committee (CWC) had to take a call on the children — some kept at Nutrition Rehabilitation Center (NRC) at the district hospital. After going through each case, the four-member CWC committee opined that seven children had bonded well with their caretakers and it would be unwise to rehabilitate them at another place.
Prashant Dubey of a Bhopal-based NGO, who posed as husband to PSI Chanchala Soni to buy a child from Shailendra alias Shailu Rathore, told The Sunday Express that the CWC’s decision was illegal and perverse because the children had been handed over to the family members of the accused. Dubey has appealed against the CWC’s order to the district collector, the appellant authority under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015.
District Collector Ganesh Shankar Mishra said the CWC had applied its mind before passing the order, and that it was in the best interest of the children. Without going into specifics, he said he would deal with the appeal appropriately.
After their decision was challenged, all four CWC members resigned, arguing that they were being accused of bias when they had kept the children’s interest in mind. When contacted, CWC Chairman Sudhir Jain heard the question but cut the phone without replying. The collector confirmed that all four had resigned.
Superintendent of Police, Alirajpur, Vipul Shrivastava said all the accused have been sent to judicial custody. He said the racket was busted after a joint effort by the police and the NGO. He said the investigation was still on. Those arrested include Dr Raju and three other employees of Kesar Hospital.
Dubey said he was in touch with Rathore, 58, for nearly four months before the deal was finally struck for Rs 1.7 lakh. While Rs 1.4 lakh was meant for the child, the remainder was a fee for birth registration certificate. Since it was not possible to get birth registration certificate from Alirajpur, Rathore charged Rs 1.4 lakh asking the activist to manage the certificate from Bhopal.
Carrying signed notes, Dubey and Soni went to Rathore’s house on November 11 when the latter’s family members tried to cross-check their credentials before the baby was handed over to the couple.
Once Dubey and Soni took the child away, a police team entered the house and arrested five persons, including Rathore and four accomplices involved in getting the year-old-child. The police later learnt that Rathore had bought the child for Rs 30,000. Of the Rs 1.4 lakh he got from the couple, he kept nearly half and distributed the rest to his accomplices.
Sharing details of one case, Dubey said a year-old girl was given for foster care to Jaibala Wani, a resident of Nanpur village, whose husband Pushpendra Wani is in jail after he was named in the criminal case filed in Kotwali police station. “CWC has failed to explore alternatives as may exist for rehabilitating the child by acting in rash and illegal manner. The child could have been placed in a specialised adoption agency but for some unknown reasons the CWC has chosen to pass the illegal order,” reads Dubey’s appeal.
In its report handing over the custody of the child to Jaibala Wani, the CWC order does not mention that she is wife of accused Pushpendra. The order says the child will remain with the caretaker for three months because her biological parents are yet to be traced. The order sets conditions that Jaibala will have to appear before the CWC every month and asks her to furnish a bond of Rs 25,000. If the biological parents are traced the caretaker will have to hand over the child to them.