Yesterday,  the chairperson of an NGO, Bimala Sishu Griho (Jalpaiguri district in North Bengal), was arrested by a seven-member CID team from the NGO’s office in Falakata area of the district. 

She was accused of selling 17 children, in the age group of 1-14 years, to a racket at high price in past few months.

This is the fourth such case of baby sale arrest in the last three months in Bengal. 

b’Representational image/ Source: West Bengal CIDxc2xa0′

“The thing is, there is very little awareness about these baby sales in Bengal. Since the state shares porous borders with Bangladesh and Nepal, it becomes all the more easier for the gangs to operate,” says former chairperson of the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, Asokendu Sengupta, in a telephonic interview with ScoopWhoop News. 

This recent arrest in Jalpaiguri orphanage suggests a nexus that has links in America, Singapore, Spain and France, besides India.

“We believe they received Rs 10 lakh from an American couple and Rs 4 lakh from an Indian couple for the same baby but did not give it to either. Another infant, sold to a Singaporean couple, fetched Rs 2 lakh,” a CID officer told Telegraph

What is the baby smuggling racket all about? 

 Last November, the West Bengal police rescued 12 infants from a nursing home in Baduria, North 24-Parganas, and a home for the mentally ill in Thakurpukur near Kolkata. The crackdown brought into focus the baby smuggling racket of Bengal which, according to experts, is “worth crores”. 

b’Source: PTI’

That month, chief minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee  questioned whether her child development department was even aware that an infant trafficking network had grown right under its nose until the CID busted the racket last week, according to this report by The Telegraph. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, 2015, West Bengal has the largest number of reported cases of minors sold to prostitution. 

“This is a menace that has been plaguing the state for a long time. Babies are smuggled out of the state and taken to cities like Delhi and Mumbai where they are adopted by rich foreigner couples,” says Asokendu Sengupta, former chairperson of the West Bengal Commission for Protection of Child Rights.

A rundown of cases 

In November, CID rescued three stolen newborns bundled into a biscuit carton who were rescued from a nursing home in North 24-Parganas, near Kolkata. Apparently the owners of the nursing home would allegedly tell the parents that their babies were stillborn.

Last Friday, CID rescued 10 babies, all girl children ranging from one to ten months old, during a raid from the third floor of ‘Purbasha’, an old age home for mentally challenged at the southern fringes of Kolkata, under Thakurpukur police station, Rajesh Kumar, ADG and IGP, state CID told reporters here in the afternoon.

“An initial probe revealed that at least 50 infants have been sold from the home and the number could be more. We are looking into it. CID is also trying to find out the buyers of these babies,” Kumar told PTI.

Police arrested the owner of another old age home and rehabilitation centre for his alleged involvement in the child trafficking racket busted from North 24 district’s Baduria taking the total number of arrests in the case to 16.

In December, Kolkata Police busted baby sale racket in central Kolkata where a member of the gang sold an infant to her maternal uncle for Rs 2 lakh, Bengal police’s criminal investigation department (CID) officers have said.

Officers said Paramita Chatterjee, who was associated with Sree Krishna Nursing Home on Kolkata’s College Street and arrested for her involvement in the racket, sold a year-and-a-half old baby.

Modus Operandi 

These gangs adopt different strategies for different cases, according to Sengupta. “In most cases they lure poor expecting couples to nursing homes and then tell them that they have had a stillborn. In case there is an orphanage involves things become easier,” says Sengupta. In the Jalpaiguri case, the NGO falsely claimed to foreigner couples that the babies were of needy couples who wanted money desperately. 

Who are involved? 

According to the police the owners of quite a number of nursing homes and NGOs across the state are involved in this nexus. During the police interrogation in November, it surfaced that culprits involved in this racket used to bury the babies, who had died while being shifted from one hiding place to another, he said.

Stating that the racket may have gone international, Kumar told PTI that the CID sleuths also seized foreign currencies in Euro, USD and Hong Kong Dollar and gold ornaments including coins worth several lakhs from the possession of accused Partha Chatterjee, owner of a nursing home in north Kolkata.

Former chairperson of the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights Asokendu Sengupta claims that a number of nursing homes and orphanages are also hand-in-glove with the gang members. “The recent arrests in Jalpaiguri proves that,” he says. 

What’s the solution?

The fact that illegal nursing homes and maternity homes mushroom all across the country, is the main cause of this menace, claims Sengupta. Apparently, it only takes a palm to be greased to get open  nursing home and NGO in Bengal. “There need to be regular raids on these nursing homes and orphanges,” claims Sengupta.