MADURAI: Madurai police detained three people on Wednesday in connection with the illegal adoption of two toddlers, including a one-year-old boy, from a temporary shelter home run by Idhayam Trust at Reserve Line here.
Police said Kannan and Bhavani, a childless couple residing at Ismailpuram, illegally adopted the one-year-old boy on June 13 while Shahubarsathik and Anishrani from Kalmedu adopted a two-year-old girl on June 16.
While Kannan owns a jewellery shop, Shahubarsathik is a partner at a utensil manufacturing factory. The couples reportedly made donations to the Trust in exchange for taking the babies. Tallakulam police, which rescued the babies on Wednesday evening, detained Kannan, Bhavani and Anishrani.
On Tuesday night, it had emerged that the one-year-old boy, who was under the care of Idhayam Trust, had died of Covid-19 at the Government Rajaji Hospital (GRH). However, following enquiries by mediapersons and the police, it was found that no such child had been admitted at the GRH. After allegations surfaced on social media that the baby had been buried with fake documents, the district collector ordered a probe.
The police started investigation on Tuesday with Ishwarya, a 21-year-old woman from Sekkipatti near Melavalavu, who resides at the shelter home. They found that the documents pertaining to the baby’s death were forged. Meanwhile, the Chief Executive Director of Idhayam Trust GR Sivakumar went absconding.
According to the police, the mother was mentally disturbed and already had two children. On June 13, Sivakumar and MG Madharsha, the field educator at Idhayam Trust, allegedly told Ishwarya that her baby had contracted Covid and that they were admitting him to the hospital. Days later, when the mother pestered the NGO authorities to see her son, they took her in a car to the GRH. There, they allegedly showed her the hospital building from outside, told her the baby was admitted there and no one was allowed inside the Covid ward.
"On June 29, she was made to believe that her baby had died due to Covid-19. She was shown a grave and told that her son was buried there," a police official said.
On Wednesday, City Health Officer (CHO) Dr P Kumaragurubaran, Madurai North Tahsildar Muthu Vijayakumar, Additional Deputy Commissioner of Police Krishnamoorthy and member of Child Welfare Committee (CWC) B Pandiaraja visited the burial ground at Thathaneri where a photograph of the mother sobbing had been taken.
"An inspection at the burial site revealed that there were signs of recent burials at three spots. Records available at the crematorium show that the body of a stillborn (a case of 'intrauterine fetal demise') was buried on the night of June 28, at the same place where the photograph of the sobbing mother was taken. The stillborn was brought for burial from GRH by its parents who hail from Sholavandan. At the two other spots where fresh burial marks were noticed, stillborn twins were buried a couple of days ago," the CHO told The New Indian Express.
The burial receipt (dated June 29) used by the members of the Trust had been forged by using an old receipt issued at the time of cremation of a 75-year-old man named Ganesan, who reportedly died at the Trust’s geriatric care centre due to old age, said crematorium staff. They added that the receipt number mentioned on the old receipt and on the forged receipt were the same.
Notably, the fake receipt claimed that the one-year-old boy died of Covid at the GRH on June 29 and was buried at Thathaneri burial ground on the same day. The CHO further said, "The female caretaker who identified the burial spot told us that she and the baby's mother Ishwarya last saw the child when he was taken by Sivakumar in a car driven by Madharsha.”
“Days later, the duo said that the infant died and was buried at Thathaneri. As the mother insisted on performing rituals at the site of 'burial', the caretaker told us that she and the mother were shown the spot on Tuesday," he said.
Commenting on the referral slip issued in the name of the baby at the Narimedu Urban Primary Health Centre (UPHC), Dr Kumaragurubaran said that it was also forged. "The UPHC has no record of outpatient consultation or swab collection or referral made in the name of the baby in question. Since no referral slip has gone missing from the referral booklets and since the seal and signature of the Medical Officer at the UPHC is genuine, we could infer that an old referral slip issued by the UPHC was forged akin to the crematorium receipt," he added.
On behalf of Madurai Corporation, two complaints would be lodged, for forging the documents of Thathaneri crematorium/ burial ground and that of the UPHC at Narimedu, added the CHO.
According to official sources, 38 adult men and 35 adult women were lodged at the centre, in addition to nine children.
Pandiaraja, a member of CWC said that two weeks ago, the two-year-old child, who had scars on her face, had gone missing from the temporary shelter home where her mother, Sridevi, a native of Karnataka is staying. He added that all the nine children (four boys, five girls), aged between one and 17, are the children of the destitute women sheltered at the centre.
The young mothers and their children are to be shifted to a temporary shelter home at Bypass Road and would be rehabilitated/reunited with families a couple of days later, after due verification, he added.
Meanwhile, the District Social Welfare Officer (in-charge) Helen Rose said that although Idhayam Trust is officially registered, neither the geriatric care centre nor the temporary shelter home that are managed by the Trust are registered. While the geriatric care centre has been reportedly functioning on the premises of police quarters for over seven years, the temporary shelter for the destitute has been functioning since the lockdown last year.
"A woman inmate has complained about physical assault by the Trust staff who reportedly caned the inmates with loud music turned on. Corroborating her statement, a long cane was also found at the centre. However, the allegations of assault are yet to be confirmed," the official mentioned.
While the inmates who are in good health have been shifted to government registered homes, 28 bedridden inmates are to be moved to the GRH where an exclusive ward for abandoned persons was created months ago. The geriatric care centre would be sealed once the shifting process is complete, noted Rose.