Barcoded At Birth: Mumbai Baby Selling Racket
Although well masked from the public eye, human trafficking still exists! An activity that has now blossomed into a business has extended its clutches to baby trafficking. The need to clear financial debts wins over poor families who need little persuasion to give up their little bundles of joy for nominal amounts. The irony comes when the educated middleman claims to be doing ‘good’ despite living off the profit of such illegal deeds.
Baby Selling Racket Exposed
A baby-selling racket was unearthed by the Wadala police last month with the arrest of the prime accused, a twenty-nine-year-old Worli resident, Julia Fernandes. Fernandes bought a seven-day-old boy from Munna Shaikh (38) and his wife Shazia Shaikh (35) for a meager Rs 20,000. Her intentions to sell the baby boy for Rs 1.5 lakh were shattered as the police were tipped off before she could seal the deal with the potential buyer. The infant was sent to a childcare center. The father of the baby, Shaik was arrested too and when questioned his reply was heartbreaking, he was debt-ridden and needed to repay a loan of Rs 1 lakh. Fernandes has confessed to having sold at least six newborns in different parts of the country in the past six months. Further, she revealed that she specifically targeted poor parents in nursing homes and government hospitals who had just delivered a boy owing to the high demand for boys. All that was to be done was convince them to sell their newborn for Rs20,000 to Rs30,000. Ongoing probing into the matter has led the police to the buyers of three newborns, a childless Worli doctor who knew the accused as a patient and therefore paid a much lesser amount than the others, a Bengaluru software engineer and a Thane gynecologist/pediatrician couple. Babies born to poor parents were sold to them for Rs 4-4.5 lakh each. Police teams have visited Bengaluru and New Delhi in search of child traffickers and buyers and are still inquiring. Also, police teams have been sent to various states to track the six children.
Tip Of The Iceberg
Five days after the arrest police were able to unlock Fernandes’ phone exposing pictures of over 100 newborns in it! It then became clear the woman and her agents were operating the baby-selling racket through the use of the social messaging application WhatsApp. However, police believe this is just the tip of the iceberg. The police are now tracking the phone numbers who have received the WhatsApp messages and photos from Fernandes, especially those who are outside Maharashtra.
Off The Hook!
Impeding upon the success of the case would be the prime accused Julia Fernandes. Despite being arrested more than a month ago and in custody for more than a week, interrogations went by unfruitful. Each interrogation session saw her avail the excuse of pain in her leg which had been operated on because of a prior accident. In defense to the accusations against her, she has claimed to be the middleman only involved in striking deals with clients as she was educated, whilst transfer of babies from the biological to new parents was done by agents who worked at the IVF centers. Despite her arrest, she resists aiding the police with her contradictory statements in an attempt to elude the police. Police state this was the reason progress in the case had been hindered. With the case now being solely in the hands of the police, it is ironic that they should complain about her absolute lack of cooperation despite her being in their hands. The case rather seems like a game of cat and mouse. Surely they can do better than give such excuses!
In order to put an end to such illegal actions, it would perhaps be best to understand the root of the situation. Long waiting lists for adoption despite an even larger demand for babies has led to baby trafficking becoming a widespread and organized crime in India. Easing up the process a bit to accommodate childless couples could curb the crimes. Awareness needs to be created about such ongoing activities, as many times the couples involved in the baby purchases are unaware of their source. Many are even kidnapped from hospitals. Childless couples are not the only clients attracted, some intend on forcing these innocent souls into the world of child slavery. Childless couples should not have to suffer the harsh laws implemented due to people who abuse the same! The public too should be vigilant to such discrete illegal activities.