Jharkhand chief minister Raghubar Das on Tuesday ordered a “comprehensive” probe into the functioning of shelter homes and non-government organisations (NGOs) working for child protection in the state, an official familiar with the development said. This comes after a Missionaries of Charity (MC)-run shelter home in Ranchi was found to be allegedly selling newborns for adoption last week.
Das issued the order at a meeting called to review the functioning of shelter homes amid complaints that trafficking and selling of children were rampant. The official, who asked not to be identified, said the alleged involvement of the MC’s shelter home in selling children has prompted the government to act.
Das directed the Jharkhand State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (JSCPCR) at the meeting to work in coordination with district child welfare committees, probe the functioning of the shelter homes and submit a report by August 15.
“Take stern action against the NGOs, if irregularities are found in their works,” the official quoted Das as saying. Das asked JSCPRCR officials to set up a helpline number so that people could register complaints, he added.
JSCPCR chairperson Arti Kujur said they would soon begin the probe and cover all shelter homes, including those the MC runs. “There are 50 shelter homes operating in the state… 10 are government-run observation homes, 15 are state adoption agencies while NGOs run 25 shelter homes,’’ she said.
“Apart from probing authentication of the shelters, we will also investigate the conditions under which the children are kept there.”
In Kolkata, MC spokesperson Sunita Kumar said the charity is conducting its own probe “very discreetly and carefully”, but refused comment on Das’s probe order.
Sister Koshleniea, in-charge of MC-run Nirmal Hriday in Ranchi, and Anima Induwar, a sweeper with the shelter home, were arrested last week for their alleged involvement in selling a newborn baby boy to a Uttar Pradesh-based couple. The police have claimed the two have confessed to selling the baby for ₹1.20 lakh.
Kotwali police station in-charge Shyamanand Mandal, who is investigating the case, said three more babies at Nirmal Hridalya were sold for ₹50,000 each. “We recovered one more baby from Morabadi area on Sunday. However, the couple, who bought the baby, is absconding.”
He said the police have details of other two babies and they have started a search operation to recover them.
Ranchi’s Child Welfare Committee chairperson Rupa Verma said the matter came to light when they inspected Nirmal Hriday and spotted irregularities in their register.
Verma said the boy, who was allegedly sold to the Uttar Pradesh couple, was born on May 1 to an unwed minor at Nirmal Hriday.
CWC shifted 13 unwed mothers from Nirmal Hriday and 22 children from MC’s Nirmala Shishu Bhawan on Thursday after the two accused were arrested.
The police has also widened the probe and is verifying whereabouts of about 360 children discharged between 2003 to 2018 from MC-run child home Nirmal Hriday in Baradwari.
“Data is being compiled and will be made public at the right time. It will take some time to complete the probe and prepare a conclusive report. We have given certain tasks and directions to the probe team,” said Jamshedpur city superintendent of police Prabhat Kumar.
The police are also sending requests to the authorities in West Singhbhum and Seraikela-Kharsawan districts to verify locations and status of the children discharged. “Most of the hundreds of children released from the home came from West Singhbhum district,” a police official said on the condition of anonymity.
A probe team led by Jamshedpur child development project officer Durgesh Nandini found that though entries in the register between 2003 and 2018 were maintained, some columns were left vacant.
In some cases, the team couldn’t reach the people to whom the children had been handed over on the telephone numbers provided in the register, prompting the police to launch the verification drive.
“The team found that 383 children came to Nirmal Hriday between 2003 and 2018. Of them, 23 are still staying here. We have decided to trace where the rest 360 are presently located. They (the probe team) did not get any photographs of the children in the register,” said another official who did not wish to be named.
The official claimed the shelter home’s management committee told them all the children were handed over to their families.
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