An orphanage in Jalpaiguri, West Bengal has been shut down by authorities after reports emerged they were selling off children illegally. The orphanage—which was run by a non-profit organisation— reportedly took infants from the arms of destitute women soon after their birth and sold them after telling the mothers they were stillborn.
Rashmi Sen of the West Bengal State Women and Child Development ministry told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that the orphanage was also sheltering destitute women.
These babies were then sold off for USD 1,500-3,000 (Rs 1 lakh-2 lakh plus)
Police have arrested 18 persons including doctors and owners of clinics in connection with the case. They are also investigating if the orphanage is part of a larger human trafficking racket.
The orphanage was registered under Central Adoption Resource Authority and had come under the scanner of authorities for using fake documents to sell babies. At least 24 babies have been torn from their mothers and sold off believe authorities.
Only 4,362 children were legally adopted in 2014 and 3,677 in 2015, according to the Central Adoption Resource Authority. India has a reported 30 million orphans but the lengthy and sometimes difficult adoption process drives some childless couples to seek out unauthorised nursing homes and individuals.
Many children are also sold in to sex slavery and for bonded labour. According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the number of registered human trafficking cases has increased by 38.3% over five years with poor conviction rate of 45%. The report also states that West Bengal is the hub of human trafficking in India and that minor girls are most at risk.