Nipped in the bud: On baby trafficking

Both supply and demand sides of baby trafficking need to be stopped 

Published - June 03, 2024 12:15 am IST

Criminal activity is mostly driven by a combination of socio-economic factors — poverty on one end, wealth on the other, and unmet needs or desires. The recent inter-State baby smuggling racket that was busted by the Telangana police should be seen under this lens. While news of baby smuggling rackets dominate headlines from time to time, blowing the lid off of this network has revealed chilling subterranean levels of operation, spanning several States. An inter-State gang smuggled children from Delhi and Pune and sold them to prospective parents in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. As many as 11 people were arrested for the smuggling of as many as 50 babies in the past year. As per initial reports, the gang had been ‘purchasing’ babies from two persons in Delhi and one person in Pune, traffic them to Andhra Pradesh and Telangana and sell to the highest bidder among childless couples in these southern States. It is learnt that the rate for a baby could be between ₹1.80 lakh and ₹5.50 lakh, netting the brokers between ₹50,000 and ₹1 lakh as commission. Three women in the gang had apparently been booked for the same offence earlier.

Further investigation will reveal how the babies were procured, but this is not the first time such rackets have been busted. There is no reason to believe that the reasons were any different: poverty of the biological parents in many cases, urging them to sell their newborns for a paltry sum, and smuggling of newborns from government hospitals where security is lax. On the other end of the spectrum are couples eager to have children, and impatient with the long waiting time to adopt a baby legally. The current waiting time to adopt a child under two years can be anywhere between two to four years. While the lengthy process is put in place to ensure that the best interests of the child are served, the non-availability of babies for adoption has queered the pitch, allowing the demand to seek supply avenues by hook or by crook. Rounding up a gang might at best be a short-term measure in this particular situation. Children are not commodities to purchase at a premium from the free market when supply is low. The government needs to do many things at once to ensure such incidents do not occur again: provide effective poverty alleviation schemes; employment opportunities for youth; generate awareness about adoption schemes for both biological and adoptive parents; remove unnecessary bureaucratic processes in adoption, and ensure effective policing to nip such plots in the bud.

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