Well-informed sources in Norway indicated that the Child Welfare Agency (CWS) in Norway has told the country's foreign ministry that, as an independent body, it will not be swayed by diplomatic pressure.
A source in the Norwegian foreign ministry said whatever pressure it could have used against the CWS evaporated following reports of a public disturbance of a marital nature between Mr. and Mrs. Bhattacharya and a continuing inter-generational slanging match between the families of Mr. and Mrs. Bhattacharya.
Three-year-old Abhigyan and one-year-old Aishwarya were placed in foster care last May by the CWS following allegations of neglect and marital discord.
This information reached The Hindu at a time when Norway's foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store himself was facing public criticism in an altogether unrelated matter and now no longer has his eye trained on the Bhattacharya case. Mr. Store, who is by far Norway's most respected and popular politician who is largely tipped to replace Mr. Stoltenberg as Prime Minister, stands accused of showing special favour to a friend when allocating ministry funds for a foundation in the north of his country.
However, the adverse publicity against Norway generated in the Indian media so affected the Nordic nation's diplomatic landscape that the foreign ministry organised a special briefing on the Child Welfare Service, the laws that govern it and how it functions for all ambassadors serving in Oslo last week. “The presentations were done by the ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion under whose aegis the CWS operates. There was a lot of interest and the meeting lasted much longer than expected with many questions,” a foreign ministry source told The Hindu.
Ambassadors will now draw up guidelines for their citizens living in or visiting Norway on how to behave with their children and what is expected of them as “good caregivers” under the Norwegian law which includes refraining from hitting or slapping children, a punishable offence in Norway.
Ministry contacts NGO
Meanwhile, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, apparently having drawn a blank with the CWS, has called the Kolkata-based NGO India's Smile on April 9. The parents of the children were reportedly not consulted by the MEA before calling for this meeting. The NGO had filed a petition on March 23 asking for permission to bring back the two Bhattacharya children from Norway. Rajeev Sarkar, the Secretary trustee of the NGO, confirmed this news on Wednesday.
“We sought permission of the Government of India to allow us to bring back the two children and gave details of all correspondences and developments which have taken place so far,” Mr. Sarkar told PTI.
In its petition the NGO had criticised the “inhumane” attitude of the CWS.