A woman and an agent were arrested for allegedly buying a six-month-old baby girl under a registered deed on a Rs 20 stamp paper in Ranchi, police said on Saturday, bringing to the fore the high incidence of human trafficking in Jharkhand.
The state is blighted by large-scale child trafficking and forced surrogacy rackets, primarily exploiting the tribal community. Jharkhand accounts for the supply of at least 30,000 trafficked children as bonded labourers across the country every year, civil society organisations said.
“We have not come across any such case before in Ranchi. The modus operandi, however, is subject to investigation,” Ranchi superintendent of police Jaya Rai said.
“The agents might have fooled the baby’s mother by showing her the signed stamp paper,” activist Baijnath Kumar said.
The case may just be the tip of the iceberg, activists fear.
Since the mothers are paid in the range of Rs 15,000 to Rs 50,000 for such agreements, the signed stamp paper proves a deterrent from approaching police or demanding the child back, Kumar said.
The alleged purchaser, Neetu Gupta of Ranchi, and the agent who facilitated the deal, Kanchan Sahu of Lohardaga, were arrested and the baby taken in police custody.
Gayatri Devi, the infant’s mother, comes from a humble background. In her statement, Devi told police she was forced to sign on the stamp paper by the agent.
According to the Central Adoption Resource Authority, a child can be adopted only after consent of a competent court and through registered bodies such as the State Adoption Resource Agency, Recognised Indian Placement Agency and Specialised Adoption Agency.
In this case, the buyer, who contended that she adopted the infant, was unaware of adoption norms, police said.
“She repeatedly said she took custody of the child after signing on a stamp paper. She is probably unaware of the adoption process,” Rai said.