On the night of April 24, Parvathi, a beggar who lives on the streets of Nanjangud near Mysore city, woke up to a car screeching to a halt right where she was sleeping. Three men emerged from the car and snatched her four-month-old son sleeping beside her and drove off. Parvathi ran to the local police station and mentioned in her complaint that the same men had tried to persuade her to sell the child three days earlier.
The police say the Mysore child-trafficking racket has sold many children of poor mothers to childless couples for huge sums. While looking for Parvathi’s child, the police have managed to rescue 16 children so far.
The men who picked up Parvathi’s son were working for Usha Francis, a laboratory assistant and supervisor with Naseema Nursing Home at Mandi Mohalla in Mysore. It was an elaborate network involving nurses from children’s homes and government-run institutes. Usha’s arrest led to the other accused, including four paramedics and two nurses.
Nila Naik, former chairperson of the Karnataka Child’s Rights Commission, tells Outlook that in her report to the government on the growing child kidnapping and sale racket, she has “chronicled the events since April 24 and also given suggestions for improvement in security and procedure to prevent such happenings in the future”.
The investigations have revealed that besides Parvathi’s son, the gang had kidnapped two other children and sold then to different couples in Mysore. Usha, a Malayali, had allegedly sold children to couples in Kerala, who have also been tracked down.
Initially, the group that worked for Usha had been dealing only with abandoned or unclaimed children from nursing homes. But, given the high demand for male babies, they ended up kidnapping a child, whom they later sold for Rs 1 lakh. Two children were sold to US and Kenyan nationals, it is also alleged.
‘Adopted’ babies rescued from families in Mysore and Kerala have been kept in government-run nursing homes. Parvathi was also reunited with her now 11-month-old son. The police are still trying to trace the biological parents of the other babies. The authorities are contemplating whether to file charges against those who had ‘adopted’ the stolen children for being accomplices to the crime.