Police Trace Two Children Sold by Slum Couple
BHUBANESWAR: Even as the alleged child sale in the State Capital found its echo in the Assembly on Thurs¬day, Commissionerate Po¬lice traced two other chil-dren of the slum couple who had grabbed the head¬lines for allegedly selling their 22-day-old baby boy to a Bihar-based couple for Rs 6,000.
While a two-and-a-half-year old boy was traced at Pipili and brought back to Bhubaneswar, a nine-year-old girl has been found at Visakhapatnam, where a police team has been sent. Both the kids are alleged to have been sold off by the couple.
With the issue snowballing into an embarrassment for the State Government, Khurda Collector Niranjan Sahoo, accompanied by Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation officials and District Child Protection Officer (DCPO), visited Shyam Chandra Rao’s residence in Press Colony slums earlier in the day.
“The matter is being investigated by the police to establish if it is a case of child sale. We will be in a position to share details once the findings are out,” Sahoo said.
However, the whole episode continued to be em¬broiled in confusion over the couple’ number of chil¬dren. Rao and his wife Pramila, who have been de¬tained by Commissionerate Police, though maintained that they had three chil-dren, not five or seven.
“Rao keeps changing his statements while his wife appears to be mentally imbalanced due to which there is a difficulty in ascertaining the facts,” said DCPO Banishree Patnaik.
Member of Child Welfare Committee Benudhar Senapati said there is evidence that Rao has seven children. Neighbours of the couple also corroborated the fact that they had seven children of which two died, a fact investigators are be-ginning to have consensus on.
Meanwhile, investigation also revealed that the 13-year-old son of the slum couple was engaged in begging in the City before he ran away.
Monu (his name changed) informed that Rao, an alcoholic, used to push him to begging near Shriya Cinema Complex and take away all the alms at the end of the day. Unable to tolerate the misery, the boy took a train and landed at Visakhapatnam where police rescued him and produced him before the local CWC, which contacted its Ganjam counterpart. The Khurda CWC then took custody of the minor and asked Ruchika Childline to lodge a complaint with Kharavela Nagar Police, which rescued Rao.
Police Commissioner R P Sharma said apart from Rao and Pramila, Ranjit Chaudhuri and his wife Chandini have been detained and interrogated.
Ranjit and Chandini had allegedly “bought” the 22-day-old baby boy from the slum couple for Rs 6,000 and a non-judicial agreement was executed in this connection. Four others, who had signed the document, will also be questioned.
The two couples could face charges under Section 370/371 of the Indian Penal Code along with Section 23 of the Juvenile Justice Act.
Meanwhile, the 22-day-old child has been handed over to Missionaries of Charity, while Rao’s nine-year-old daughter Shilpa (name changed) and Monu are with Ruchika Open Shelter after being produced before the Khurda CWC on Thursday.