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Human Trafficking in India: Babies, Skeletons and Forex Found

South Asia, with India at its centre, is one of the fastest-growing regions for human trafficking in the world.

Published
India
4 min read
 Human Trafficking in India: Babies, Skeletons and Forex Found

Police in eastern India have rescued 13 babies and discovered the skeletons of two infants in raids on homes for the elderly and mentally disabled – as a probe into a suspected international human trafficking ring widened on Monday.

Infants Caught in Human Trafficking Network

10 infants, all under the age of one, were found on Friday in a home for the mentally disabled run by a charity in the impoverished district of South 24 Parganas in West Bengal.

Meanwhile, in another raid in the neighbouring district of North 24 Parganas, the remains of two infants were found in office premises of a charity which ran an adoption centre.

The raids come after the discovery – on 21 November – of three newborn babies hidden inside cardboard biscuit boxes in a locked storeroom in a nursing home, where women would come to deliver or have an abortion.

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Rajesh Kumar, Additional Director General of West Bengal's Crime Investigation Department (CID), said that 18 people had been arrested for taking the newborn babies and trafficking them for adoption in India and overseas.

The police have busted a huge network of NGOs, nursing homes, doctors and middlemen dealing in illegal adoption and baby trafficking. Our men are now building on the huge leads they have already got in this case.

Initial investigations revealed that unmarried girls and women who visited the clinics for an abortion were persuaded by staff to give birth and sell their babies.

The police did not give a price, but local news reports said the mothers were given 300,000 rupees ($4,380) for a boy and 100,000 rupees ($1,460) for a girl.

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The babies were then smuggled in biscuit containers to adoption centres. (Photo courtesy: Twitter/@IIECP)

Babies were also stolen from women who delivered at the clinics, but who were told by the staff that their children were stillborn. Some were even given the bodies of stillborn babies preserved by the clinics to dupe parents, police said.

The babies were then smuggled in biscuit containers to adoption centres, homes for the mentally disabled and elderly people, where they were kept until their adoption was organised.

Those arrested included the owners of the clinics, midwives, doctors, owners of the charities, as well as court clerks who are accused of forging documentation for the babies.

Babies, Skeletons, Forex Found

South Asia, with India at its centre, is one of the fastest-growing regions for human trafficking in the world.

Gangs sell thousands of victims into bonded labour every year or hire them out to exploitative bosses as domestic servants, or sectors such as farming and manufacturing. Many women and girls are sold into brothels.

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Following last Monday's raid on the nursing home in Baduria, 80 km (50 miles) from Kolkata, interrogation of clinic staff led police to conduct over 20 raids in what police say appears to be a highly organised human trafficking racket.

They included a swoop on the offices of an adoption centre run by a charity in Machlandapur, 25 km (15 miles) away, where police on Friday found the skeletal remains of two infants, who are suspected to have died there while awaiting sale.

The same day police also found ten babies lying on a sheet on the ground on the second floor of a charitable home for mentally disabled people in Behala. The infants showed signs of malnourishment and some had chest and skin infections.

Kumar said one of the doctors arrested on suspicion of involvement in the baby smuggling racket had over $3,200 in US dollars, euros and Hong Kong dollars in his possession – suggesting that the infants were being sold overseas.

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The seizure of this foreign currency is a definite indication that the racket may have its tentacles spread into foreign countries and foreign couples who were interested in baby adoption.
Rajesh Kumar Additional Director General, West Bengal’s Crime Investigation Department (CID)

One of the rescued infants has been reunited with its parents, who had been told by clinic staff that their baby was stillborn, he said, adding that police were trying to locate other parents – as well as those who had adopted the children.

Senior government officials said the rescued babies were being treated at government hospitals.

"I have asked the South 24 Parganas district child welfare officer to look into the case and arrange for proper care and upkeep of the babies," Sashi Panja, West Bengal's Minister for women and child welfare told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

(The story was originally published in Thomas Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. )

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Topics:  Babies   Skeletons   Human Trafficking 

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