On Tuesday, the West Bengal CID had busted an international child trafficking racket and arrested eights persons, including two women, for their alleged involvement with it. The racket operated from a private nursing home at Baduria in North 24-Parganas stretched all the way to different parts of the country and beyond to the US and the UK. CID claimed that at least three nursing homes in the city had direct links with the gang.
Acting on a tip-off, on Monday, CID conducted a raid at Baduria and arrested Najma Bibi, Utpala Byapari, a quack Amirul Biswas, owner of a local nursing home Asadur Jaman, one NGO activist Satyajit Sinha, a clinic-owner Bakbul Baidya and a lawyer Prabhat Sarkar along with his associate Jhantu Biswas.
The operators sold newborns to childless couples for more than two years till the state police’s criminal investigation department (CID) busted the syndicate on Tuesday.
When the police raided the Sohan Nursing Home and Polyclinic, Three babies, kept inside biscuit boxes were recovered from the spot, he said, adding that several documents and papers were also seized from the place. Two three-day-olds — a boy and a girl — were found inside a biscuit carton. A third one, nearly six days old, was found in a room. CID officers said they suspect that the newborns were put in such cartons and smuggled out in ambulances to evade suspicion.Sources fear that at least 45 newborns were trafficked by the gang.
The investigators are also keeping an eye on TK Biswas, a retired doctor from RG Kar Medical College and Hospital and another local physician from Baduria for suspected association with the gang. An NGO too was involved in the racket.
A senior officer said, “We had an information about this child trafficking racket where doctors are involved. This gang was targeting women who used to come there mainly to abort. They were encouraged to deliver the child against a payment. While Sinha used to bargain with prospective buyers, two clerks Pravat Sarkar and Jhantu Biswas prepared the legal papers.”
He added, “Also couples coming to the nursing home for deliveries were told that the baby was born dead. Most couples were too poor to challenge the nursing home authorities and those who did were silenced with monetary compensation. Then the accused persons used to win over sympathy of the couples and convince them that there was no need to take the dead babies with them. And there are cases when they had paid the women sums ranging between ₹20,000-₹30,000 to take away the unwanted baby.”
Newborn girls were sold for less, between Rs.80,000 and Rs.1 lakh if their complexion was dark, and between Rs 1 lakh to Rs 1.5 lakh if they were fair. The boys got sold for not less than Rs 2 lakh.
All of the arrested 8 persons are residents of the North 24 Parganas. They were produced in court during the day. While Satyajit Sinha and Utpala Byapari, who ran the NGO, and Bagbul Baidya and his wife Nazma Biwi, who owned the polyclinic, were sent to police custody, Ashaduzzaman, the nursing home owner, was sent to judicial custody.
On Wednesday, another four persons were arrested for allegedly involvement in the racket. Two of them are owners of a nursing home in Behala; the other two are associated with a nursing home on College Street. A third nursing home, in south Kolkata’s Kustia, is also under the scanner, said CID sources.
Wednesday’s first arrests were made from Behala’s South View Nursing Home on James Long Sarani, colloquially referred to as “Bordi’s nursing home” by locals. The two arrested are sisters, Putul Banerjee (58) and Prava Pramanik (55). Investigators said it was Putul who used to supply newborns to the gang. Sources said their main earnings were through abortions, and their main targets were children born out of wedlock.
Locals said the two women admitted very few patients. “At the time of the arrests, there were just five patients in the hospital. Among the other nursing homes, Dolphin Nursing home and Srikrishna nursing homes are under the scanner after Paramita Chatterjee, who recently took over as owner of Sri Krishna, was arrested from there, as did Santosh Kumar Samanta (60), who lives in Dum Dum.
The racket, which CID busted on Tuesday, was thriving on the pan-Indian network of an NGO based in Machhlandapur in Barasat, Subodh Memorial Trust, run by Satyajit Sinha. This NGO had acted as the links to all nursing homes. At least two others, who live in Durga Nagar, Dum Dum, are actively involved.