Alcoholic couple sells baby boy for Rs 45,000 to buy booze

An impoverished alcoholic couple in Jharkhand’s Bokaro district sold its one-and-a-half-month-old baby boy to a quack for Rs 45,000 for buying their daily dose of liquor, police and Child Welfare Committee (CWC) members told Hindustan Times on Monday.

The couple later pleaded innocence to the police claiming outrageously that they sold the infant “unknowingly”. The father of the infant, Rajesh Hembrom who works as a washer man in Bokaro is 30 years old while his wife is 28.The couple already has five children, all under the age of ten.

Police swung into action after the couple’s neighbours tipped them off on Sunday about the deal with the quack.

Policemen in mufti met the couple and traced the quack who had already handed over the baby to a 50-year-old man Meghu Mahato, a resident of the same district. Mahato is childless.

“The agent Santosh Sahish, who is a quack, took away the baby after paying Rs 45,000 in cash to the couple. He handed over the infant to an old man who lives in Chakradharpur,” said Dhirendra Kumar, an assistant sub-inspector who is probing the case.

Santosh and Mahato were sent to the Bokaro Jail on Monday on charges of trading an infant, he said. The baby was reunited with its parents.

The Bokaro CWC which intervened in the matter and found that the couple was addicted to alcohol and needed the money to buy their daily dose of liquor.

“They have confessed that they were addicted to alcohol and needed money to buy liquor every day. They were probably inebriated during the deal as well and the quack had persuaded them to go ahead with it to have sufficient liquor,” said CWC member Prabhakar Kumar.

He added that the CWC has taken it in writing from the couple that they should be held responsible if the baby goes missing again. The CWC will also visit the couple’s place every fortnight to check on the infant.

Baby trade has been a growing concern in poverty-stricken rural Jharkhand. Cases of poor couples selling off their babies for money have come to light even in the past, say anti-child trafficking activists.

A six-month-old baby girl was allegedly sold for Rs 15,000 under a registered deed on a Rs 20 stamp paper in Ranchi in July 2015.

Jharkhand is blighted by large-scale child trafficking and forced surrogacy rackets, primarily exploiting the tribal community. The state accounts for at least 10,000 trafficked children as bonded labourers across the country every year, civil society organisations say.

Though the police did not find any evidence proving involvement of the Bokaro quack in any such racket, CWC members said that he was allegedly involved trafficking minor girls on pretext of medical treatment.

“There were rumours that he (Santosh) had taken Rs1.5 lakh from Mahato for the deal, but Mahato is yet to confess any monetary exchange with him,” said investigating officer Kumar.

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