She was found crying in a heap of garbage near the Moradabad highway. The six-month-old girl, dressed in a pink sweater and red trousers, had no name. Since then, her photographs have been splashed across local news channels, Facebook posts and WhatsApp groups in Moradabad, prompting more than 80 people — including a father of three sons, an IG-rank CISF officer from Delhi, a chemist and several residents of Bhikanpur Kulwara — to dial the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) and local police, offering to adopt her.
Far removed from Moradabad, the girl sleeps in a cot at the state-run orphanage, Rajkiya Bal Griha, in Rampur. Officials at the lone orphanage for 13 districts in Uttar Pradesh, which houses 35 children, say the girl cannot be adopted for the next two months, until the CWC holds a committee meeting and deems it fit.
With police yet to track her parents, she has been given a name by the orphanage, Pari. “We name every child who comes here. She is a very beautiful girl… bilkul pari jaisi dikhti hai,” says Rakesh, the orphanage in-charge. Pari was found last Friday morning by Zayda, a resident of Bhikanpur Kulwara. Her neighbour, Salim, fed her milk meant for his eight-month-old son until police arrived. Zayda thought she would get to keep the girl. She smiled for photographs, posing with local police, until the infant was taken away from her. “I told them I had found her. They took her from me, and now the police are questioning us… The CWC people told me I have to register online to adopt the girl,” says Zayda.
Meanwhile, police are investigating phone calls received at the orphanage, claiming that the girl is from Dehradun. “There were some calls made to the orphanage, with the caller claiming to know her parents. We do not know if they are prank calls,” says Station Officer (Kundarki) Dheeraj Solanki.
CWC chairman (Moradabad) Gulzar Ahmed says this is the first case of an abandoned child in Moradabad in the past two years. He says he thought Zayda would be the only person wanting to keep her. “But my team has got more than 80 calls. In fact, I got over 60 calls, asking me to hand over the girl for adoption,” he says.
The first among the callers was an IG-rank officer deputed with the CISF and recently posted at Delhi. The officer, who has a daughter and a son in Classes X and IX, called up Ahmad and sought to adopt the girl. “My wife has been after me ever since she saw the girl’s face… We are trying. My wife says she will not spare me if the girl goes to a bad home. We have a good home for the baby,” says the officer.
Orphanage authorities say they will update the child’s details with the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA).
People who want Pari may have to wait, though, as the adoption process often moves at a snail’s pace, and takes up to three years in some cases, say officials. But Mujeeb Ur Rehman, a government school teacher at Moradabad, cannot wait that long. “I have three sons. When my wife was pregnant for the third time, we prayed for a daughter. The doctors told us not to go for a fourth child. I really wanted that girl. If her parents did not want her, that is their choice,” he says.
At the CWC office, Deepu, a local chemist, also wanted to adopt the girl, only to be turned away. “My wife had an abortion because of some complications. She has been depressed for the last one year. I don’t know how to use the Internet and apply for adoption. I thought you had to fill up some papers,” he says.
Pari, meanwhile, is oblivious to the commotion around her. Tucked in the arms of her nurse, she is taken to the administration block and lets out a soft cry before falling asleep again. “The girl is healthy. She has been eating small pieces of mashed potatoes and biscuits dipped in milk. The guard sometimes feeds her bread crumbs dipped in milk. We have to get her blood test done today,” says the nurse.
While CWC members from the Rampur branch take turns to cuddle Pari, a hostel in-charge stares at the computer screen as he types out the details of a 14-day-old boy who was found abandoned at the general hospital in Rampur — the same day Pari was found in Moradabad. “He has been in the ICU for three days. He was cold when we found him. If he survives, we will also give him a name,” says Sarika, a CWC member from Rampur.
As Pari starts to wail, her nurse takes her to the nursery section of the orphanage, whispering in her ear: “So ja baby (Go to sleep)”. The orphanage in-charge, typing out Pari’s counselling report, says: “Always tell the truth, but half the truth. We have written in her counselling report that she was found in a dustbin. Who will want her after a few years when all this attention dies down?”