In Telangana, babies are sold for less than Rs. 30,000 ; in West Bengal, a father sold his baby for Rs. 25,000 ; in Mumbai, a doctor tried to sell a baby for Rs. 50,000 . Unwanted infants, usually girls, are being sold by families living in abject poverty. In most cases, the families cannot afford to feed or care for the babies and would rather prefer the money than another burden on their heavy shoulder.
An undercover operation conducted by NDTV found that in Telangana, it is almost too easy to find a baby merchant. A reporter and a member of the state’s child rights commission travelled to Nalgonda – one of the poorest districts in Telangana – and posed as a couple looking for a child.
It took them less than half a day to find someone willing to sell them a baby. What comes as the biggest shock, is that the merchant worked at a government-run home. The child was coming from the same home, and there were almost 10 more babies waiting in line to be sold.
The posing couple were then told that there was no legal paper work for these children, and therefore no one would notice if one went missing. If they paid Rs 30,000, they could take the child home that evening.
They were also told that baby girls are in such abundance that some are even sold for as low as Rs 5000.
“Who will know madam if one baby is replaced by another? There is a regular supply,” said the local driver to the NDTV reporter.
The undercover couple were put in touch with a woman who promised them a baby girl in the next few days. They were told they had to pay Rs 50,000 as the woman had some debts that needed paying off. They were also told to not bring up money in front of the mother.
A massive racket of baby selling exists in India today. In many cases, mothers are left without an option and are forced to sell their infants. In some cases, such as in West Bengal, the mothers are not even consulted.
The father of a new born baby sold her to a primary school teacher through a middle man – who also happened to be the headmaster. When the mother found out and protested, her husband threatened to kill her and her son.
“I didn’t want money, but my husband said we are too poor to feed the baby. He had no money to get her married. He threatened to kill me if I complained. I want my baby,” cried the mother, Salma.
Unable to bear the separation, Salma, went to the police to register the case. After searching the whole day, and detaining the middle man, the police found the infant. The father and teacher are yet to be found.
Another disgraceful addition to this business is forced surrogacy. Here, traffickers kidnap or lure young girls into “jobs” in big cities. They are forced to act as surrogate mothers and deliver babies, who are later sold through agents.
There are cases from Jharkhand – which is fast being considered a hotbed of modern day slavery – where girls as young as eight have been taken from their families and forced into this trade. Once they come of age, they are impregnated and made to deliver babies. Some girls have delivered up to 10 children, and have no idea what has become of them or who bought them. Their money goes to the people running the racket.
Crimes against children
In the year 2013, 2,816 children were kidnapped, over 100 girls were bought and sold for prostitution, over 1,224 minor girls were procured and 13,037 other crimes were committed against children.
These statistics show us only a small fragment of the atrocities committed against children every day. At this point, forced surrogacy is not a recognised crime around the country. There haven’t been enough reported cases and thus there is not enough data on the matter.
In terms of the trade of babies, there are a number of cases from around the country, yet the government has not made any efforts to stop it. So much so, that babies are being sold out of government run facilities in Telangana.
It is important to remember that the parents who are selling their babies are living in a state of penury. For them, another mouth to feed is almost impossible. Unfortunately for people in this condition, a girl is much more of a burden than a blessing. Therefore, it is no surprise they are doing what they can to keep their lives going.
This, by no means implies that selling human beings is justified, as those babies are not commodities. This is only to suggest that looking at the bigger picture is important. Before one can condemn the man for selling his daughter, one has to consider there was desperation behind it.