A top the first floor balcony of a two-storey house in Bhaduria, a small town in West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas district, a decaying façade has the following Bengali words etched in cement: “Niraash aadharey khoda…Tumi hey aashar noor (In this hopeless gloom, you are the only ray of hope).” Below it, a large signboard reads: “Sohan Nursing Home and Polyclinic.” The privately owned clinic, locals tell Outlook, had built quite a reputation in the neighbourhood as a philanthropic establishment specialising in “unwanted pregnancies”—helping “unwed mothers” give birth. For many women from poor families who had few options except such clinics, it would indeed have seemed like a “ray of hope”. The shutter came crashing down after a CID (Criminal Investigation Department) team raided the place late on November 21 and claimed to have busted a baby-trafficking racket.
According to the CID, the West Bengal Police’s detective wing, the sleuths first arrested a local midwife Najma Bibi, who was indirectly associated with the nursing home, and she led them to the premises where three babies were found, all less than one year old. Two had allegedly been packed inside a cardboard box, and seemed ready to be trafficked out. The police were able to find the parents of the third and returned the baby to them.