Patna: Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity has landed into a controversy after Jharkhand police recently arrested two nuns from a Nirmal Hriday shelter home on charges of selling newborn babies.
The incident surfaced earlier this month after the government’s child welfare committee (CWC) informed the police about a missing child from a Ranchi-based shelter home which was being run for sick, destitute and orphans by Missionaries of Charity.
The police said that “the authorities of the shelter home had received money from a couple but failed to hand overthe baby to them”.
Evidence available with the police suggests that some of the nuns of the organisation may have links with child trafficking network operating in the country.
According to sources in Ranchi, operations of Missionaries of Charity have been under the lens of CWC since 2014.
Activists say that there have been a number of cases regarding children being trafficked through charity-run shelter homes and hospitals due to the long waiting list for adoption in government wings.
“Records are being scanned. There could be more centres which may have been operating in a similar manner. We have information that the racket has been going on for many years in several shelter homes in the name of providing help to destitute and malnourished mother and children,”said Babban Gupta, a member of the CWC.
According to sources CWC has found at least four cases when babies were given for adoption without documentation. Kotwali police station in charge Shyamanand Mandal said, “The two nuns arrested from Nirmal Hriday shelter homes have admitted that four children were sold to childless couples.”
Police investigation reveals that 450 unmarried pregnant women were admitted to various homes being run by Missionaries of Charity between 2015 and 2018 but records of only 170 childbirths are available and information regarding the remaining 280 is missing.
“There are discrepancies in the records of childbirths which took place in the shelter homes. We are investigating the case from all angles and trying to locate missing information. There have been reports about babies being sold for about `1.25 lakh each,” a police official said.
The organisation had stopped giving orphan children up for adoption after the government came up with fresh guidelines on the issue in 2015. However, CWC feels that several nuns associated with Missionaries of Charity in Jharkhand continued with the act under the garb of providing help to financially weak tribal people.
Expressing concern over the incident chief minister Raghubar Das has ordered a probe into the alleged baby-selling racket in the state.
The headquarters of Missionaries of Charity at Kolkata has also started conducting an internal probe to find out about the involvement of nuns in trafficking and illegal adoptions from various shelter homes.
“We are shocked to know that our nuns and other staffers of our organisation have been involved in the act. We will look into the matter to find out the truth,” said spokesperson of Missionaries of Charity, Sunita Kumar.
The main concerns for the state government led by chief minister Raghubar Das now is to control the growing cases of human trafficking in Jharkhand.
According to activists, girls of tribal belt usually become victims of trafficking network which has been dealing in human organs and flesh trade.
A report shows that the number has soared in the recent years despite state government efforts to control it.
A study shows that there has been an increasing trend of children being trafficked from Jharkhand
Figures show that between 2014 and March 2017 about 247 human traffickers were arrested out of those 103 were women. Between 2013 and May 2017, as many as 2,489 children were found missing out of which 1,114 are still untraced.
The Jharkhand government had come under sharp attack recently when five anti-trafficking campaigners were kidnapped and gang-raped in Khunti near Ranchi.
The incident had occurred when the activists associated with an NGO were engaged in a campaign to create awareness through street plays.
The chief minister had called a high-level meeting to discuss the matter and directed a probe.