NAMAKKAL: The Namakkal child adoption racket that recently came to light has revealed how lapses in health and registration services could be exploited by unscrupulous individuals. It has also shown how brokers were able to target childless couples as well as poor families with too many children.
In fact, if investigators are to be believed, the accused were successful as they leveraged contacts to provide a virtually one-stop service for childless couples. Using contacts with health officials, they were able to target poor women and sell their eggs to fertility clinics in the region.
Through the connection built through sale of the eggs, they were able to allegedly find childless couples for whom fertility treatments hadn’t worked and offered to sell them babies instead. Through contacts with health officials, they were able to know which babies had been born at which government hospital to what kind of families and thereby narrow in on vulnerable families that they would allegedly convince to give up their babies. The racket, which has allegedly gone on for years, only came to light last week after an audio recording of a retired government nursing assistant offering to sell babies went viral.
After detaining the woman, Amuthavalli, for questioning, police arrested her and her husband Ravichandran, who worked at an urban cooperative bank, as well as one Sengarai who was an ambulance driver at the Kolli Hills primary health centre. So far eight people have been arrested under several sections of the Indian Penal Code and the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act of 2015. As many as 14 children who had been sold into illegal adoption had been traced in Erode, Coimbatore, Tirunelveli, Kanniyakumari and Madurai districts.
The case has also been transferred to the CB-CID for investigation.
Meanwhile, officials in the district have undertaken a mammoth exercise of scrutinising thousands of birth certificates in the region as part of an effort to trace irregularities and identify children who may have been given into illegal adoption. As per norms, as soon as a baby is born in a government hospital, health officials are supposed to record details of the newborn, including parents’ name, address, baby weight, vaccination status, etc.
Deputy Director (DD) of Health Services Dr G Ramesh Kumar told Express that the birth certificate verification process in Rasipuram and Kolli Hills was going on around the clock. “Over 10 teams have been formed, each with one doctor, medical officer, health inspector and village nurse, to scrutinize over 4,500 birth certificates in and around Rasipuram. Besides, the health teams have also cross-checked details of over 1,000 birth certificates in Kolli Hills,” he said.
As part of the process, in Kolli Hills, the teams were verifying all documents and registers, including birth certificate registration book, staff attendance, pregnant women’s entry to PHC and her discharge records. The health officials were also going to the houses of each patient to verify their address and see the child.
In the course of the investigation, officials found that at Kolli Hills, most of the Primary Health Centres did not record any details about the babies born there. Further, at least 80 children born in the region were not issued proper birth certificates, indicating lapses that may have been exploited by the accused. Action against several health officials is also expected soon.
Lawyer Nalvinai Vishwaraj pointed out that the alleged brokers had obtained birth certificates for children from many hospitals illegally. He had submitted a petition at the Rasipuram police station, earlier this week, alleging that a Sri Lankan couple had obtained a fake birth certificate from Dharapuram Municipality for a female child although the child had been born in Salem government hospital.
Amuthavalli had worked at government hospitals in Pallipalayam, Paramathy velur, Tiruchengode, Rasipuram as well as Salem. According to her confession during police interrogation, she got involved in the racket while working at GHs as she gained contacts with childless couples, parents of female babies and health officials across the state. She took voluntary retirement in 2012 from the Rasipuram GH in order to focus on the illegal business, she said in her confession. Police said that she was selling babies based on their gender, for up to `4 lakh.
“When a baby is sold, the seller and buyer would sign an agreement before a notary public lawyers who would issue a document certifying it as a child adoption deed,” a police official said. Preliminary investigation revealed that the gang, led by Amuthavalli, identified families below poverty line (BPL) and parents having more than three kids as targets who would be willing to sell their baby through her contacts with health officials. Though the brokers had sold babies for up to `4 lakh to childless couples, they would give less than `95,000 to the parents, police said. In fact, in Kolli Hills, it is learnt, that only one parent received as much as `95,000 for giving up their girl baby.
If the gang allegedly leveraged Amuthavalli’s contacts with health officials to find babies, it looked to fertility centres to locate childless couples, homing in on those whose treatment had been unsuccessful. While it is not yet known if doctors at such hospitals were involved in the racket, health officials said that the brokers had ties with several fertility clinics in the region, especially in Coimbatore which is a medical hub.
These contacts were allegedly built through selling eggs to childless couples at the cost of `12,000. They got the eggs, mostly from widows, by paying up to `7,000 for them, according to officials. The fertility centres allegedly gave the brokers a commission that ranged from `12,000 to `20,000. As buyers and donors had somewhat benefitted through this, no one had come forward to file a complaint against the fertility centres, police officials noted.
To legally adopt a baby in India, a prospective parent, if eligible, would have to register through the Central Adoption Resource Authority. As part of the process, the prospective parent’s documents are scrutinised and the family undergoes a home visit. Only after proper checks are done will a person be allowed to legally adopt a child. The process can sometimes take years but aims to protect the best interests of both the child as well as the prospective parent.
Vishwaraj alleges that the gang, in this case, exploited loopholes in the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act. “Through this, the two parties (donating and adopting parents) may meet directly and adopt children. Not only couples but bachelors, spinsters, widows also can adopt children. Although there are many norms to be followed, no one follows them. Middlemen and brokers have used loopholes here for illegal adoption. Registration of the child has to be made mandatory for adoption under this Act,” he said.
Lack of birth certificates
Investigations found that at Kolli Hills, most of the Primary Health Centres did not record any details about the babies born there. Further, at least 80 children born in the region were not issued proper birth certificates
Parents only paid pittance
Though the brokers had sold babies for up to Rs 4 lakh to childless couples, they would give less than Rs 95,000 to the parents, police said. In fact, in Kolli Hills, it is learnt that only one parent received as much as `95,000 for giving up their girl baby.
Dos & Don’ts
What CARA (Central Adoption Resource Authority) says
■ Only adopt from Specialised Adoption Agencies (SAAs) recognised
by State Governments
■ Read the guidelines carefully on the CARA website and follow
the due procedure
■ Do not approach any nursing home, hospital, maternity home, unauthorised institution or individual for adoption
■ Keep away from touts/middlemen. There is no role for
touts/middlemen in adoption
■ Through illegal adoption, you may unintentionally become part of
child trafficking network and face legal ramifications