Infant trafficking nexus arranged children on demand for childless parents

Sep 10, 2023 12:33 AM IST

A six-month-old male child was found in the house of one of the accused, and further investigation is underway.

LUCKNOW The arrest of six individuals, including four women, in Moradabad on Friday has exposed an inter-state infant trafficking network stretching from Mumbai to Kolkata, Bihar, Jharkhand, and various districts of Uttar Pradesh, according to senior police officials on Saturday. These officials disclosed that the gang supplied infants to childless parents based on their demands and preferences for male or female children.

Arrest of six people, including four women from Moradabad, exposes an inter-state infant trafficking network, with the kingpin operating from Mumbai. (HT File)
Arrest of six people, including four women from Moradabad, exposes an inter-state infant trafficking network, with the kingpin operating from Mumbai. (HT File)

A week-old girl child, purchased from her family for 30,000, was recovered from the arrested individuals. Additionally, a six-month-old male child was found in the house of one of the accused, and further investigation is underway.

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Moradabad’s Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), Hemraj Meena, said that the gang would collect advance payments from childless parents and enter into agreements with underprivileged families or parents with unwanted pregnancies before the child’s birth, ultimately selling their children to them. The infant girl, who was recovered, had also been purchased from her grandmother, who was promised a better life for the child. The grandmother of the child was also paid 30,000.

Meena suspected that the gang was involved in numerous incidents of child trafficking and child thefts reported in the past year. The arrested individuals confessed to selling six infants to various people in Agra, Mumbai, and Kolkata after either stealing or purchasing them from their parents.

However, they could not provide information about five infants who had been stolen from different parts of Moradabad in the past four months. Police are continuing to investigate their network, and it is possible that others within the same network have stolen and sold them through different channels.

Kingpin Operates from Mumbai

Further investigation revealed that the arrested accused worked for a Moradabad woman named Deep Mala, who is the kingpin of this racket. Deep Mala operates from Mumbai, Maharashtra, secretly arranging childless parents willing to pay high prices for children.

The arrested individuals were identified as -- Shabnam (35) and her husband Yunus (37), Geeta Rani Saini (45), Neetu Devi (48), Sazia (40), and one Gaurav (32), all residents of Moradabad. The gang was exposed by the Mainather police station.

All four women involved in this operation previously worked as ‘Dai’ (untrained childbirth assistants) and were often aware of pregnant women in underprivileged families or parents with unwanted children. These women also had connections with several private hospitals to which they referred maternity cases.

The gang even covered hospital expenses if parents or families agreed to give their child to them after birth, primarily targeting parents with three to four children who were easily convinced to part with their child in exchange for money and promises of a better life.

Bid to Expand Network, Get Better Deals

Manoj Kumar, in-charge of the Mainather police station, revealed that Deep Mala, the kingpin, had previously lived in Moradabad but shifted to Mumbai after amassing significant earnings through child trafficking. She now arranges clients—childless parents willing to pay substantial sums for a child—from her base in Mumbai.

Deep Mala instructs her gang members in Moradabad to acquire children according to the demands of childless parents. A police team has been dispatched to Mumbai in search of Deep Mala and other individuals associated with this gang.

The recovered infant girl was also acquired based on Deep Mala’s demand. The arrested accused procured children by paying Rs. 30,000 to Rs. 50,000 to their families. The kingpin paid them up to 3-3.5 lakh for each child, suspecting that she herself received double or triple the amount she paid to the arrested individuals.

Kumar also mentioned that another six-month-old infant boy was found in Shabnam’s house, raising suspicions that Shabnam had intended to sell the child for a better deal, given that he was male.

Child Activists’ Perspective

Lucknow-based child activist Sangeeta Sharma emphasised the need for enforcing adoption policies in a manner that would facilitate childless parents’ adoption processes. She pointed out that time-consuming adoption policies contribute to infant trafficking cases. Sharma called for stricter laws to combat child trafficking, given the rising trend of unauthorised child adoption.

Similar Rackets Unearthed Recently

In May 2023, the arrest of ten people, including three women, in Varanasi revealed a similar infant child trafficking racket operating in eastern U.P. and other states like Bihar and Jharkhand.

In August 2022, a doctor couple from Hathras was arrested by Agra police for child trafficking and arranging infants for childless parents in exchange for money.

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