Started almost five years ago for the care of unwanted newborns, the Pangura (cradle) scheme has given a new life to baby girls especially.
Being run on the District Red Cross Society premises here, it continues to offer help and hope of a better life to abandoned infants, and expose how when a girl is born, patriarchal society goes cribbing.
In 2008, former deputy commissioner Kahan Singh Pannu thought of this facility to check illegal sex selection and the dumping of newborns either in trash cans or on roadsides, where if they survived elements and disease, the stray dogs would maul and eat them. The parents either didn't want them or were too poor to raise children.
The cradle has curbed these incidents to quite an extent, and the children will have better life, if prosperous families adopted them. The 71st child in the cradle, a two-day-old girl, arrived at 2.30am on October 8. She is likely to be put up for adoption upon the completion of legal formalities.
The scheme has come as providential support for parents who are unable to bring up children on their own. Many couples from poor families have approach the Red Cross Society for help in raising their children. The cradle is outside the Red Cross office, and unwanted babies are placed in it anonymously. Of the 71 children put in it, so far, only five are boys.
Pannu, force behind the initiative, was moved by the dismal reports of newborns being abandoned in bushes and on streets. "The babies died eventually or became meat for stray dogs. It was heartbreaking," he said. An inspiration came to him to give the infants a chance to live and be wanted.
The officer is glad the facility has been able to help the parents who are forced by circumstances to part with their babies. "Most of these babies are born either out of wedlock or into poor families. Driven by social concerns, the parents choke their emotions and leave them to fate. Pangura holds them to nurse," said Pannu.
All new children in the cradle are taken for medical examination to an identified hospital, while the healthy babies get a clean bill of health, and sick infants are treated and sent for recuperating to one of the five government-certified centres (two each in Jalandhar and Ludhiana, and one in Patiala).
A written protocol outlines the duties of the scheme's personnel. The children are put up for adoption upon the completion of legal formalities.
Deputy commissioner Ravi Bhagat said he had a dream. "I wish to see adoption centres come up in Amritsar, and seminars for creating awareness among parents about gender equality," he said. He has also planned a study on why people abandon their sons as well.
All children sent from the Pangura to the five adoption centres are given to good families to raise. The Red Cross Society doesn't share the families' details to avoid complications when the children grow up. Almost all the children are adopted within a week or a month of arriving in Pangura.
Dr Inderjit Kaur, president of the All-India Pingalwara Charitable Society, however, disapproves of the Pangura scheme, which she says does more to encourage than despise the practice of abandoning daughters at birth.
"The administration is supporting a malpractice instead of solving the issue of gender bias," she said, requesting the administration to open local centres to bring up the children abandoned into the cradle.
"Pangura usually accepts children who are healthy. The sick ones it sends to Pingalwara for upbringing," she said.