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Every child has a right to live

Shastry V. Mallady
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Abandoned infants under Government’s Cradle Baby Scheme await foster parents

LOVE AND CARE:A home for abandoned children in Madurai. — photo: G. Moorthy
LOVE AND CARE:A home for abandoned children in Madurai. — photo: G. Moorthy

On the night of March 31, a new born female baby was found in a thorny bush near the Central Vegetable Market at Mattuthavani, Madurai. A passerby called ‘100’ to inform the police.

Sub-Inspector S.Veeralakshmi from the Anna Nagar Police Station was at the spot within minutes. She put the child on a pillow and called ‘108’. The emergency ambulance arrived seven minutes later. The baby weighing 2.7 kg was admitted in the neonatal ward of the Government Rajaji Hospital.

Despite the best efforts of the paediatricians, the baby died the following day. The policewoman who rescued her was crestfallen. So were the GRH doctors.

The incident highlights the Cradle Baby Scheme of the Department of Social Welfare which is aimed at protecting abandoned children especially the female babies.

This particular girl baby may have survived, points out T.Swaminathan, Medical Superintendent, GRH. The parents should have left her in a cradle outside the gynaecology department of the hospital.

“If parents do not want a child, they should at least have the heart to leave it in a cradle as there are several parents waiting to adopt,” he says.

At the two licensed homes under the Department of Social Welfare, abandoned/unknown toddlers – mostly females – are under the care of ‘ayahs’ and social workers, instead of enjoying parental care.

Mazhalai Illam, a home for abandoned children in the Grace Kennett Foundation Hospital at Ellis Nagar and the Claretian Mercy Home at Azhagusirai near Karumathur are the two institutions where abandoned babies are accepted, languishing in Government’s cradle instead of the mother’s lap.

“We have 24 children with us now, from five months old to eight years. Every child has a right to live and right to a family. By following the legal procedures, we try to give these children in adoption,” says Nirmala Sorubarani, a social worker at Grace Kennett Hospital.

The moment an infant baby is brought to the home, they are named for the purpose of identification. Whether it is Asmitha, Sindhu, Karuna, Renuka or Neethu, Renita, Rhea, Nikil, Srimathi and Kanniga – all these beautiful babies crave for love and childless couples are their hope. Couples approach the Child Welfare Committee, Social Welfare Department and the care homes to adopt a baby. There is also scope for intra-and inter-country adoption after completing the formalities.

At the Claretian Mercy Home near Karumathur, there are 24 children, from a month to a year old. They are fed milk powder, instead off mother’s milk.

“It is a big challenge for us to take care of these infants. We have 32 abandoned children with us and 17 of them are girls. To declare a child as abandoned, it takes six months to a year since many legal procedures have to be followed to see if the biological parents can be traced,” says Fr.Makizchi Mannan, Director of Claretian Mercy Home.

In many cases, the babies are abandoned either on the basis of gender or a health issue or because it is an illegitimate child.

As per official statistics, 233 children, including 175 female babies were handed over by the Social Welfare Department, Madurai district, to the two recognised care homes between 2001 and 2013.

Only those children who come through the department are handled under the cradle baby scheme.

District Social Welfare Officer R.Anandhavalli cites poverty as one of the main reasons that compels a couple to abandon a girl child even though it is an immoral act. The ‘108’ emergency ambulance service is a blessing for abandoned babies as they are immediately rushed to a hospital from the spot once the information reaches.

“In the last one year, we have picked up 13 newborns from various places such as Maattuthavani, Thirumangalam and Tirupparankundram. Most of them were female babies,” said G.Thanigaivel Murugan, District Manager of ‘108’ ambulance service.

Fr.Mannan says that even though the babies are dumped and abandoned on roads, there is solace that several of them finally find parents through adoption. There are two categories of children in the homes- abandoned and surrendered. The surrendered category includes those babies voluntarily given away by a single parent or a relative for want of care.

With sustained focus through the Save the Girl Child campaign, cradle baby scheme and the Integrated Child Protection Scheme, there is hope for the abandoned babies. For no fault of theirs, they become unclaimed children. It is for the large-hearted to save the little ones.

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