31 children sold between 2012 - 2016 from Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri districts through a racket
Biometric birth registratio
These newborns were found by CID sleuths in a carton in a child welfare home in south Bengal last year. They were waiting to be sold off to childless couples.
The Child Welfare Committee (CWC) of Jalpaiguri district of north Bengal, where a major child trafficking racket was busted in February, has written to the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) proposing mandatory biometric registration of birth at every hospital and nursing home to prevent trafficking of children.
The CWC of the district was at the centre of a storm after a baby selling racket was unearthed in the district in February by CID.
“Biometric registration of all child birth in hospitals and nursing homes should be mandatory,” the CWC’s letter to NCPCR said.
In a three-page letter dated March 8, the committee – which acts as a bench of magistrates – has pointed out how trafficking rackets are producing children before the CWC with fake identity of mothers and getting them declared ‘free for adoption’.
This ‘free for adoption’ certificate from the CWC is mandatory for specialised adoption homes to handover children to prospective adoptive parents.
“We propose biometric birth registration at every hospital’s labour wards so that a basic identification of the children with mother is done. This is not a vast task for hospitals and nursing homes. If a child is identified right after birth, child trafficking will be easier, even (if) sold or kept in childcare institutes,” reads the letter from Jalpaiguri CWC.
The possibility of biometric registration of newborns was discussed earlier by the Centre, but the pilot reportedly ran into a few problems. The CWC members, however, think this offers a foolproof method.
A team of members from the national child rights commission visited north Bengal to investigate the case but returned without much success. They alleged non-cooperation from the administration in Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri districts.
CID has identified at least 31 children sold between 2012 and 2016 from Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri districts through a racket involving members in the CWC, district child protection units and childcare homes.
This was the third major child sale racket busted in the state within six months, the first two being at Falta in South 24-Parganas and Baduria in North 24-Parganas districts during November-December last year. Nursing homes have been found to be one of the key sources of newborns for trafficking.
West Bengal recorded the highest number of women and child trafficking cases in the country in 2015 and 2016 with the districts of Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri, North 24-Parganas and South 24-Parganas dominating the list.
It was, however, due to the consistent efforts of some members of the Jalpaiguri CWC from the beginning of 2016 that the state government launched a probe, resulting in the arrest of seven persons earlier this year.
The arrested persons include the district child protection officers (DCPO) of Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri, a member of Darjeeling district CWC and three persons associated with a government-recognised specialised adoption agency. Two other members of the Darjeeling district CWC are under the CID’s scanner.
According to the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 and the CARA (Central Adoption Resource Agency) guidelines, abandoned children and those surrendered by their mothers mostly due to unwanted pregnancy and economic distress are to be produced before the CWC of the district concerned, and the CWC will issue further directions towards their stay in child care homes or specialised adoption centres.
“There are several allegations that nursing home authorities often inform mentally unstable or unmarried mothers that their baby was a stillborn. Then they arrange for a woman to come before the CWC with the infant, claim it’s her baby, and wish to surrender her/him before the CWC for the baby’s care and protection,” a member of the Jalpaiguri district CWC said, requesting anonymity.