How three women ran a trafficking network selling children to the highest bidder

Three women working with hospitals in Mysuru and a racket they ran
How three women ran a trafficking network selling children to the highest bidder
How three women ran a trafficking network selling children to the highest bidder
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On April 21, Parvathi, a beggar, was resting outside the Srikanteshvara Swamy Temple in Nanjangud with her two children.

They were all asleep; but Parvathi woke up at 1pm to her two-month-old son, Prasanna, crying.

When she opened her eyes, she saw one person grabbing her baby boy and speeding away in a car on Chamarajanagar Road. Another man, in the guise of helping her, took her on his bike and abandoned her some 3-4km away from the temple.

A complaint was lodged, and the police began a probe into the kidnapping.

On November 4, based on a tip-off, six persons including three women and three men were arrested in connection with a racket that sold to childless couples.

On November 6, the Mysuru police stumbled on another incident where a man named Francis was arrested for trying to transport a baby in a cardboard box to Thrissur in Kerala.

At the time, the police treated the two as standalone cases.

Weeks of investigation led them to eventually conclude that the two cases were inter-connected. What they uncovered was a nefarious network run by three women preying on childless couples and unwed mothers. The police are investigating to find if some of the children were kidnapped or parents swindled into parting with them.

Over the last few years, this gang had sold as many as 16 children to childless couples in Mysuru, Thrissur, Shivamogga and Dakshina Kannada.

Usha CJ – The kingpin of the operation was a lab technician at Naseema Medical Centre on Pulikeshi road in Mandi Mohalla of Mysuru.

Srimathy – A nurse/consultant, who used to work at Naseema Medical Centre and then moved on to Aravind Nursing Home.

Renuka – A nurse who was working with Usha.

Usha’s husband Francis, a man named Mohan who was working as a nurse at another hospital in Mysuru, and two drivers were also part of the network.

“These women claim that they convinced unwed mothers and those who did not want more children to give away their infants. These infants in turn were given to childless couples who had approached the Naseema Medical Centre for IVF treatment,” said Nina Nayak, who is part of a committee appointed by the Karnataka government to investigate the racket.

The children were sold to the highest bidder. “The couples claim that they paid around Rs 50,000 for a child, but we believe around Rs 3-4 lakh was paid for each child,” says Nina.

A well-oiled racket going on for years, it would have gone unnoticed if not for the kidnapping of Parvathi’s child.

Investigators believe that of the 16 children that the gang has trafficked (the number could turn out to be higher), this was the first time they kidnapped a child.

“Usha had given an infant to a man named Madan a few years ago. He wanted a second child. His wife had pretended to be pregnant to convince their family and when she entered her ninth month of pretence, he started getting impatient. He asked Usha to get him an infant,” says Nina.

With no infant in hand, Usha tried to convince Parvathi that she was in no state to fend for two children. When Parvathi refused to part with her new-born, the gang decided to kidnap the baby.

Tracing biological parents

Of the 16 children, the biological parents of three have been traced by the police. Parvathy and two other mothers have come forward to take back their children.

All the children have currently been housed at three homes in Mysuru. The police are yet to trace the biological parents of the other thirteen children.

Two of the women running the racket adopted two children a few years ago. “They did not take these children due to any motherly feelings. The children were dark and no childless couple wanted them. So, these two women adopted them,” said Nina.

International racket

Two of the children were given to couples abroad. A child was given to Usha’s cousin living in America five years ago, while another infant was given to an Indian couple in Kenya three years ago.

What happens to care givers or adoptee parents?

Every time a child adoption racket is busted, an ethical question investigators face is whether adoptee parents should be given custody of the children.

PP Baburaj, Managing Trustee, People's Legal Forum believes that the children should be given back to their caregivers as they have a familial bond with them.

"These children should have been given back to the caregivers the day after they were rescued. The children have been well looked after and are healthy. The parenthood could have been made legal. The Juvenile Justice Act states that institutionalisation of children should be the last resort and trying to reunite the child with the family must be the first priority. They have gone about it the wrong way," he said.

He added, "The parents must be treated as victims too as their vulnerability was played upon. These are parents who resorted to this kind of activity when they could not have children of their own. The children were given good care."

Nina Nayak disagrees. “These children were illegally given away. The adoptee parents were a part of the crime and they should be investigated too. The Juvenile Justice Act clearly makes both parties accountable.”

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