A baby girl for as little as Rs 5,000, twin girls offered at cut price — these are just some of the awful realities unearthed by a television channel in Nalgonda district in Telangana recently.
The programme showed just how easy it is to buy a girl child. The women who sell their children to touts are invariably poor and unaware of the magnitude of the crime.
One reason for the sale of babies in India is the difficulties people face in adopting.
The laws are cumbersome and it takes as long as four years to legally adopt a child. Many people choose to circumvent the law and buy children through unscrupulous touts who thrive on a combination of legal laxity and poverty.
In the past, the government has often seemed more obsessed with giving Indian parents first choice and cutting down on foreign adoptions.
The real issue should be a streamlined system that makes adoption easy and legitimate, given that India is unofficially home to 30 million orphans.
Orphanages which operate below the radar have been giving children up for ‘adoption’ for years with very little fear of the law. However, the recent changes proposed to adoption laws, making the process as short as 45 days, work against this illegal sale.
Those with the right documents will, hopefully, now not have to run from pillar to post, greasing palms to adopt a child. The other problem that is endemic in India is the trafficking of children, largely for the begging and sex trade.
India has the largest number of laws against child labour and the largest number of child workers.
Many of us don’t even notice the children who beg on the road or work in eateries or in homes until a case of abuse is brought to light. The rights of the child would seem to be at a discount in India, whether that of the baby sold on the cheap or the child pressed into work and denied a childhood.
Omnibus commissions and legislation have not had the effect they should have. With the changes in the laws, maybe we will be spared the chilling sight of babies being sold over the counter. However, past experience does not inspire much hope.