From next week, 90 “strategic” spots in Nagaland’s Dimapur district will have white and pink cradles serving as drop-off points for abandoned babies. Part of a pilot project called “Cradle of Hope” by the State Child Protection Services (SCPS), the cradles which will be placed in police stations, hospitals, clinics, anganwadis etc, aim at helping young mothers “to surrender their child in a responsible manner.”
“Over the years, the number of babies abandoned — whether in dustbins or jungles — have increased,” says Chubainla Jamir, Director, SCPS, “That is why we thought this would be of great help.” While there were no numbers accessible to ascertain the exact number of abandoned children, Jamir feels that numbers only tell a part of the story since many cases go unreported. “Especially in remote areas, these things happen — due to poverty, ignorance — without the knowledge of adoption agencies,” she says. Currently, there are two functional adoption agencies registered with the Government of Nagaland.
Officially launched on Monday as part of the Ministry of Women and Child Development’s National Child Rights Week 2018, the project ensures complete anonymity to the person delivering the child to the cradle. A board that is propped up against the cradle reads “Unwed mothers/girls who choose to go through pregnancy can contact us. Confidentiality is strictly maintained.”
Each cradle — whether in the police station, hospital or anganwadi — will be under the responsibility of a designated individual who will be in touch with the district child protection unit. “According to our program, the first set of responsibility lies with village child protection committees,” says Jamir.
Earlier in August the SCPS started the linkage adoption program in Nagaland, making it one of the first states in the country to do so. In this initiative, 60 childcare institutions are linked to specialised adoption agencies (SAAs) across India, aiding orphaned or abandoned children in finding homes. “In Nagaland, since time immemorial, adoptions have been taking place through Naga customary practices of tribes,” says Jamir. This is often in conflict with legal procedures. “Each tribe has a different set of rules for adoption, which have been passed down from generation to generation. The problem is that there is no legal procedure involved,” she says.
SCPS is trying to increase awareness regarding the same. In August, the committee commissioned homegrown Youtube channel Dreamz Unlimited to make a short video on child adoption and the legal procedures involved as per the Juvenile Justice Act. “We are trying to spread awareness about this — while it has increased to a certain extent, remoter villages still follow customary practices,” says Jamir.
The Cradle of Hope project is currently in its pilot phase and restricted to the Dimapur district. “If it works, we will be happy to extend it across the state,” says Jamir.