At the end of the day, it was good old-fashioned policing which helped cops in Ranchi trace the four infants allegedly trafficked by a nun and staff member of Nirmal Hriday, a Missionaries of Charity-run shelter for pregnant and unmarried women.
The Jharkhand police conducted door-to-door searches disguised as NGO workers using local intelligence, detailed call record analysis and standard technical surveillance and found the children, reports The Print. Reports indicate that the children were born to inmates at Nirmal Hriday, but allegedly sold to childless couples by a network of traffickers both within and outside the shelter.
At the heart of these investigations into the missing children is a five-member team at the Kotwali police station in Ranchi, where the case has been registered.
“It seemed like an uphill task to trace these kids as we had minimal clues about their possible location. We carried out a door-to-door search as members of an NGO working for children and contacted more than 600 people before we finally reached the (four) couples who had bought the babies. We went to localities that we had zeroed in on with the help of technical surveillance. We told locals we were looking for newborn babies to give them vaccination, medicines and toys. It was a time-consuming process,” said a police officer, speaking to The Print.
The first child they traced was a young infant girl from Simdega area, who was sold to a couple for Rs 50,000. Despite not having the couple’s number or phone address, the police did know that their relative lived in an area next to a small idol of Mother Mary.
In the area, there were reportedly a lot of Mother Mary idols, but using intelligence gathered from locals and door-to-door questioning, they zeroed in onto the couple.
Another infant boy sold for Rs 50,000 was traced to an area in Ranchi after police sifted through the call records of a nun, who allegedly confessed to trafficking. After tracking their number, the police zeroed in on the couple’s location. However, the couple had found out about the search party, and continuously changed their location, until the police finally caught up to them.
When captured, the couple told the police that they had initially insisted on undergoing the path of legal adoption, but the shelter home threatened that if they didn’t buy the child, it would be their last chance.
Since the scandal broke out and new adoption rules have been promulgated allowing single parents to adopt, the Missionaries of Charity has put an end to all its adoption activities in India.
The third child was traced after the police analysed the call details of the Nirmal Hriday nun and staffers who have confessed to trafficking.
“We finally got a few numbers that were frequently dialled for a specific period and did not feature in the list thereafter. We then traced the location of the users and zeroed in on the location of the couple,” a police officer told the publication.
After the three young children were traced, they were taken before the Ranchi child welfare committee, which falls under the jurisdiction of the District Magistrate established to rehabilitate children born under very vulnerable circumstances.
After much deliberation, the children were returned to their adoptive parents since they had established a very close bond. Before receiving their adoptive children back, the couples had to fill in all the necessary paperwork, verification, and other formalities to make the adoption process legal.
“The babies were handed over on the condition that the couples will have to produce the babies before the CWC every two weeks for the next two months so that we can be assured that the child is being taken care of,” said a member of the CWC.
The fourth child, meanwhile, was traced by the Jharkhand Police earlier this month after a nun who worked at the Missionaries of Charity confessed to having sold the child “for free” to different people, according to this Press Trust of India report. Police, however, weren’t inclined to offer any further details on this case since it is “highly sensitive.”
Unfortunately, during the questioning of Sister Koncilia and Nirmal Hriday staff member, Anima Indwar, it was found that they had sold three more children beyond the four traced by the police. These babies are yet to be traced. Going by their statement, these children were sold from anywhere between Rs 45,000 to Rs 1 lakh.
We hope that the police find the other three missing children.
“The Juvenile Justice Act has been violated, and since we have a confession that a child was sold for money, we have lodged a case of human trafficking against specific persons. The police have not targeted any institution,” said a senior police officer to Scroll.in.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)