In a shocking story of child trafficking and exploitation of the poor, a sting operation carried out by CNN-IBN and Cobrapost, has uncovered a “baby bazaar” in a government hospital in UP, where babies were being stolen from poor parents and sold to the highest bidder. And everyone – from doctors to nurses to midwives and even child welfare authorities seem to be involved.
The undercover reporter, acting as a childless parent, walked around the government hospital in Amroha in Western UP, asking if it was possible for him to ‘buy’ a fair baby girl or boy.
A nurse tells him that if he had come three to four months ago she would have been able to give him a “beautiful fair baby girl’, while an aayah advises him not to offer too much money because after all, the baby he will be buying is likely to be a poor man’s child. “Get around ten to fifteen thousand. That will be enough”, she says.
A doctor and lab technician also confirm that if needed, a baby can indeed be bought.
However the rot is not only confined to the environs of the hospital.
The undercover reporters paid a visit to Dr Umar Qureshi from the child welfare authority of Amroha district where they were shocked to learn that he was also part of the racket. “Does someone need a child? It can be arranged”, says Dr Qureshi, before inviting them to his house to discuss payment. At such high levels however, babies don’t come cheap. The reporters are told they will have to shell out Rs 60,000 for a baby boy.
But what is prompting poor parents to sell their children?
A little bit of digging by the reporters shows that parents are being coerced to sell their babies to ‘pay’ doctors and hospital staff for their services, although they are in government hospitals. One man called Shahnawaz who had sold his baby boy to the hospital revealed that he had been told that if he was unable to pay the hospital, he had to leave his baby behind. “I sold my baby boy for Rs 4000 and I paid them Rs 1000 of that money”, he says. In another case, a lab technician tries to justify the hospitals’ actions, saying that they ask parents who want to abort female fetuses to sell the baby instead.
In other cases it is desperate poverty that prompts parents to resort to such desperate measures. One father who thinks he is selling his baby to the undercover reporter says that he already has six children and cannot afford another. ‘With the money I get for this child, I can secure the future of the others”, he says.
“We will have a high level inquiry to go to the depth of the matter”, says Shantha Sinha, Chairperson, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights.
A 2008 US Department of State report on human trafficking mentions that the problem affects 20 to 65 million Indians.”A critical challenge overall is the lack of punishment of traffickers, effectively resulting in impunity for acts of human trafficking”, the report highlights.
What is the real problem here though? The trafficking or the poverty that makes people vulnerable to it?