Odisha police rescue one-month-old baby. She was sold for Rs 15,000
Stories of child sale are not uncommon in Odisha, once infamous for its poverty in 80s and 90s as scores of poverty-ridden families sold off their sons and daughters to well-off families unable to feed them.Updated: Oct 29, 2020, 01:12 IST
The police in the western Odisha district of Sambalpur last night rescued a one-month-old girl from a couple who had allegedly bought her from an impoverished couple for Rs 15,000 in yet another case of selling of children in the state.
Following a complaint by NGO Childline in Sambalpur, officials of Charmal police station in the district detained a couple from Kusapali village of Sambalpur who had bought the child from a couple hailing from Keutibahal village under Charmal police station area.
“The alleged sale came to light after local ASHA and anganwadi workers tipped off Childline. We suspect that the infant’s parents who already had five children may have sold her due to poverty. We have detained the couple who bought the baby and have lodged a case in this regard,” Basant Dalei, inspector-in-charge of Charmal said.
“During the investigation, we traced the child’s mother who later revealed the names of the buyer. The sale was done through a notarized affidavit which is illegal.”
Stories of child sale are not uncommon in Odisha, once infamous for its poverty in 80s and 90s as scores of poverty-ridden families sold off their sons and daughters to well-off families unable to feed them. Western Odisha districts like Kalahandi and Bolangir are replete with examples of child sale. In 1985, the sale of 2-year-old tribal girl Banita to a blind man for as little as Rs 40 and a saree by her sister-in-law Phanas Punji brought the poverty of the state into the limelight. Though Odisha’s per capita income has jumped from what it was in 1999-2000 to Rs 1.01 lakh in 2019-20, cases of child sale still continue to pour in.
Earlier this month, a toddler in Nischintakoili block of Cuttack district was allegedly sold by his poverty-stricken parents to a couple in neighbouring Kendrapara district. The same month, a couple in tribal-dominated Malkangiri district sold off their 9-year-old son to a neighbour as they wanted to remarry and the boy was a hindrance to their plans. The boy was rescued by the district administration, but not before his new family took him out of school and forced him to work as a cowherd.
In December last year, the newborn twin girls of a 33-year-old mentally challenged single mother in Cuttack district were allegedly sold by her relatives to two different couples soon after her discharge from SCB Medical College and Hospital. In September 2019, a Muslim couple in costal Balasore town had sold their seven-day-old baby for Rs 20,000 to a childless couple in the town on Friday as it had become impossible for them to manage the family with the meagre income of the daily wage earner husband. The baby was their seventh child.
In August 2017, a daily wage-earning couple in coastal Kendrapara district had allegedly sold their newborn girl for Rs 7,500 to a childless couple to settle their hospital bill. The couple in their complaint before the police alleged that the ASHA worker of his village was instrumental in taking them to a private nursing home which raised a huge bill.
Head of the department of economics in Sambalpur University, Sanjukta Das said rise in per capita income or rise in GDP has nothing to do with reducing poverty. “The economy as a whole is surely growing but it has excluded a lot of people, particularly the Dalits and tribals. The Gram Sabhas and palli sabhas have failed to amplify the voices of the poor in India’s villages. During the Covid-19 pandemic, the economic hardships have surely gone up forcing the poor to take extreme steps like selling their child or even ending their lives. We have very little way of knowing how the pandemic has affected the poor unless a proper study is done,” Das said.
Citing a study by Directorate of Economics of the Odisha government in 2017-18, social activist Ranjan Panda of Sambalpur said Sambalpur along with 7 other districts had more incidence of poverty than that of the entire state. “GDP growth does not mean equitable growth. If you look at the statistics you would see Odisha has brought down the poverty levels from 57 per cent in 2004 to 32.6 in 2011 while the food grain production has doubled in the same period. But has it helped the poor lead a better life? I don’t think so. I am not surprised by cases of child sale as the pandemic must have broken the back of several poor families. The current model of chasing GDP growth will only bring us doom,” Panda said.