22 June 2010
Police Probe Statewide Child Trafficking Ring With Links In Healthcare System
About 18 months ago, doctors told Maruthayi, 39, (name changed) that she would not be able to deliver a baby. Today, she dotes on an 11-month-old boy, buying him clothes and toys and taking him to the doctor for his shots. She can’t imagine a life without him.
Maruthayi told The Times of India that she “purchased” the baby from a Kilpauk Medical College (KMC) hospital administrator but refused to divulge the amount she had paid. “I paid him in thousands. The biological mother would have got most of it,” she said.
Eight months ago, a TOI team went undercover and met the administrator who said he could find a baby for a “potential buyer”. In April, he was caught on camera saying he had found a woman who was due for delivery at the hospital in two months: “I know your number. I will call you after she has the delivery… negotiations will begin after that.” On Monday, in a telephonic conversation, he promised to close the deal by next week. The conversation has been recorded.
Chennai: Even as the Tamil Nadu police are currently working to unravel a child trafficking network spread across the state, it continues to be possible to buy a baby in Chennai. In fact, it would not be difficult to just walk in and steal one. And it’s not just at KMC that the task is so easy, government hospitals across the state have become the source for baby traffickers.
Ironically, almost every senior official, including Additional Director General of Police Archana Ramasundram and health secretary VK Subburaj, agree. Only two days ago, a woman lost her newborn at the Rajaji Medical College Hospital in Madurai. “Police traced the child and restored it to the parents,” says Subburaj.
Nearly 70% of all deliveries in the state take place at government hospitals, and most babies that are trafficked are from these hospitals. The cost of a baby ranges from Rs 10,000 to Rs 1.5 lakh. “Entry to government hospitals is not restricted, so security is a cause for concern. Government hospitals have no strict visiting hours. The campuses are huge. We need to evolve strategies to beef up security,” says ADGP Archana Ramasundram.
The hospitals also face the problem of corrupt grade-IV staff. “The staff demand money for every service, including getting xrays and cleaning the woman in labour. They hit my daughter on her thighs while she was in labour. We were forced to give them money,” says Muthulakshmi, whose daughter was admitted to the Woman and Children Hospital at Egmore here.
In almost every government hospital, staff are aware of brokers who actively participate in child trafficking. While some babies are abandoned or sold by poor parents, others are stolen.
Big Biz Of Babies
Of 11 babies bought and sold in 18 mths, 4 were stolen from or near GHs in Krishnagiri and Tirupattur
- 3-month-old baby boy stolen from Krishnagiri GH | Rescued in Perambur
- 3-year-old boy stolen from near Krishnagiri GH | Sold in Gingee
- 2.5-year-old boy stolen from Tirupattur GH | Sold in Krishnagiri
- 1.5-year-old boy stolen from Tirupattur GH | Sold in Bangalore