Nine people have been charged of baby-trafficking following a four-day busting operation that also netted a nurse at a maternity hospital, the police in India’s financial capital Mumbai said on Monday.
The nine suspects have been charged under India’s anti-trafficking laws and juvenile justice laws for having bought and sold at least seven babies over a six-year period.
Among those arrested are the mothers of three infants and a man who had bought a baby while the rest were ‘agents’ who facilitated and brokered the criminal transactions.
“We’re now investigating how many more children have they sold and if there are more agents operating in the area,” said police inspector Yogesh Chavan, who received a tip-off about the baby-trafficking racket last week.
“The mothers of the babies were poor and the buyers were couples desperate for a child,” he said.
Police said they have not yet taken the babies involved away from the couples who bought them and were awaiting a consultation from child welfare officials.
Preliminary investigations suggest gang members targeted poor pregnant women in a slum area close to the city’s affluent Bandra Kurla Complex business district, officials said.
The maternity hospital nurse would then put childless couples she met through work in touch with the pregnant women, charging couples up to 100,000 rupees (US$1,365) for making the connection.
Baby girls were sold for 70,000 rupees and baby boys for 150,000 rupees, on top of the connection fee, police said.
This is the second such case in the city in five years. In 2016, Mumbai police arrested five women accused of selling babies to childless couples in various states across the country.
India recorded more than 1,100 cases of child trafficking in 2019, according to government data, up from 1,000 cases recorded a year earlier, but anti-trafficking campaigners say the real number is likely much higher.
Government officials have said an increase in baby trafficking is reducing the number of children available for adoption as more couples wait to adopt. (Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation)