The Chennai police busted a child trafficking racket that had spread its web from Uttar Pradesh to the city, on Monday. The criminal activity came to light and was investigated after Yogesh Kumar, a Madras High Court advocate trainee, filed a case at the Kilpauk police station over suspicions that his wife had illegally procured a newborn baby.
Yogesh and Padmini got married in February 2016 and just one month later his wife allegedly claimed to be pregnant. According to the police she had a condition which made it difficult for her to conceive a child and thus she faked a pregnancy.
"She seems to have had a problem conceiving and decided to adopt a child without the knowledge of her in-laws," says C Shyamala Devi, the DCP who led a special team to nab the child-trafficking group. "Once she was in her parents' home, she went online and posted that she was looking for a child on a website where people buy and sell other goods. That is how a broker found her and â€śsoldâ€ť the baby girl," she explains.
On January 11, 2017, Padmini told her husband that she had given birth to a girl at the Government Hospital for Women and Children in Egmore. But before her husband could reach the hospital from the court, she came back to her parents' residence with the baby. Following this, Kumar filed a petition at the Madras High Court, which directed the child trafficking unit of the city police to probe the matter.
When investigations began, it soon came to light, that the child had been trafficked from a family in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh. Jeya Sharma (39) and Amit Sharma (42) gave birth to a third child in January 2017 and wanted to sell the baby since they could not take care of the baby.
"We tracked down the adoption deed of the child after being alerted by the Sub-Registrar Office in Ghaziabad. They told us that the name of a couple was listed twice in their list within a span of just seven months. How can there be two children born to them in that short period of time? So we then managed to nab the culprits involved by talking to the parents who sold the child," she explains.
Investigators then tracked down two Delhi based brokers who were in touch with Padmini â€“ 34-year-old Komal Verma and 40-year-old Ricky Verma. The brokers and the baby's parents were arrested on Tuesday and have been lodged in Puzhal jail. This is allegedly not the first time that they were involved in child trafficking.
"They have been booked under the Juvenile Justice act â€“ section 80 and section 81," explains the officer. The baby meanwhile was handed over to the Child Welfare committee.
But what about Padmini, who bought the child?
"She was under a lot of pressure to get pregnant from her husband and in-laws. That is why she became desperate," Shyamala Devi claims.
Family denies allegation
Yogesh's family however vehemently denies the allegation that she was forced to get pregnant and that they had been married for just a month.
A relative who spoke to TNM under the condition of anonymity says, "They got married in February 2016 and she declared in March that she was pregnant. Why will any family put pressure on a woman within a month to get pregnant?"
Yogesh's relative however admits that the family was not on good terms with Padmini's mother and father. The couple had a love marriage, and she claims Padmini's family was poorer than Yogeshâ€™s.
"We were however happy when she told us that she was pregnant and through the nine months we kept offering to take her to the hospital and help with check-ups. But she always declined our assistance and said she will go with her mother instead," says Yogesh's relative. "Even when we asked why her stomach wasn't swelling, she said the doctor has told her everything is fine. She is a fat person and has a belly as it is," she claims.
But didnâ€™t her husband notice anything?
"Yogesh is very innocent. He doesn't understand such things," defends the relative.
But the investigating official dismisses the claim. "She has done this with the knowledge of her husband. Now he is not able to stand up for his wife because he is scared of the rest of the family. Why else will Padmini do this?" she asks.
Yogesh's family alleges it was for the 'money'.
"We are from a more affluent family and she wanted to ensure that she and her child get a share of the money that we have. She realised that her medical condition will not allow her to get pregnant and thus she went about this whole drama," alleges the relative.
How did they find out?
"First of all she went alone to 'deliver' the child without even her own parents. And when we saw the child it didn't have an umbilical cord and neither did Padmini have the signs of a woman who just delivered the child. She wasn't even able to breastfeed the child. The baby was clearly a few days old because it could already smile even," says the relative. "We became very suspicious. So we took her to the hospital under the pretense of getting the child her vaccinations. There, with the help of a duty nurse, we found out that Padmini did not have the physical signs of delivering a child," she adds.
Yogesh meanwhile was scouring hospitals across the city to find out if there were records of his wife delivering a child. But Padmini could not even produce a birth certificate for the baby.
"When we pressured her into telling us the truth, she threatened to consume poison," claims the relative. "So we were forced to go to the police."
The Chennai police could not arrest Padmini as she had already procured an anticipatory bail.