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Child trade in Odisha continues
In the mid-eighties one Banita Punji had sold her sister-in-law for a paltry amount of 40 rupees. It made headlines in the national and international newspapers. Media persons and the leaders made a bee line to Punji's village Hatimunda. It is three decades since then, and a plethora of poverty alleviation schemes like employment guarantee act, one rupee rice etc are there, however, practice of child trade has become a continuous practice in the bountiful Odisha.
Earlier it was the underdeveloped Kalahandi, Bolagir and Koraput region that was reporting child trade. While child trade has not stopped or changed, for a change this time it has been reported from the state capital Bhubaneswar. And it happened on a stamp paper in the presence half a dozen witnesses.

Again Odisha woke up to this shocking headline of an infant being sold for only Rs 6000. But that was not the only shock. Much more was to follow in the body of the news. The child sold for Rs. 6000 was only 22 days old. And the sale of the child was supposedly authenticated by a sale deed (not judicial) on a stamp paper that had more than half a dozen witnesses. The complaint was lodged by Child Line authorities.

And wait, the shock is not yet over. After the whole incident unfolded, it was found that the same couple had sold/parted with four of their five children. While the eldest had ran away from his parents, the rest three had been given to other couples. But the most shocking was the statement by one of the senior ministers of Navin Patnaik.

Cabinet minister Damodara Rout who was unabashed enough to wonder, "Why such people are not adopting birth control measures, and instead giving birth to so many children? And they are not able to feed them and selling them off! In such case what the government can do about it?"

Unfolding of these shocking incidents was triggered by the rescue of a teenager from Vijayanagram city of Andhra Pradesh by the local Child Welfare Committee. They informed their counterpart in Ganjam district. Ganajam district Child Welfare Committee took the custody of the teenager and informed the Ruchika Childline in Bhubaneswar.

Eventually the teenager was shifted to Bhubaneswar. While the teenager was being persuaded to go back to his home and questioned about the whereabouts of his family, he refused to the go back to their parents as his parents have sold his younger siblings. So the Child Line authorities lodged a complaint with the police.

Police enquiry has revealed that teenager's parents Shyamachandra Rao and Pramila Rao lived in the Press Colony slum in unit 3 area of Bhubaneswar. They have sold their youngest of the sons, a 22 day old baby to a couple Ranjit Chowdhury and Chandini from Bihar on 9th June, 2014. An agreement on a stamp paper also has been made in which a mention of Rs 6000 has been made. But Shyamachandra has admitted that he has received only 5000 rupees.

Now both the couples are detained in the Kharavelanagar police station. Investigation has revealed that the couple have three sons and two daughters. Prior to this sale, two more children including a son and a daughter have been sold by the biological parents and the elder son (who informed the child line) had ran away from home.

A one and half year old child was given to a couple in Pipili Prakash Chandra Panda and Swarnaprava one and half years ago. This child changed hands when it was only seven days old. The other baby a four year old girl was allegedly sold off to a couple in Vijayanagram. But finally the girl had been traced at a garage owner in Bidanasi area of Cuttack city, that is 30 kms from Bhubaneswar. By now both the children have been rescued and sheltered in Missionaries of Charity. All the three couples, who took these children and the biological parents have been arrested by the police and later on released on bail.

The Pipli couple has admitted that the Shyamachandra had given them the Child one and half year ago, but denied any monetary transaction in return. Rather they said "Shayama Chandra had said that as he was not able to nurture the child, better we should take him and nurture him." This couple from Pipli have two daughters and wanted to have a boy. The other couple whom the 22 days old boy was sold also had two daughters.

The three rescued children are in Missionaries of Charity, Satyanagar, Bhubaneswar. The eldest of the sons rescued from Andhra Pradesh is in Ruchika Child Line. And the girl that was staying with her biological parents, being a minor and her parents being in police custody, has been sheltered in Ruchika Child Line.

While the Child Welfare officers, District administration and the police are making a bee line to the press colony slum and the opposition has got a hot issue to hammer as the assembly session is on, the government has been trying to hide the whole thing as it has been an embarrassment to the Odisha government, alleged child rights activists in the state. The four couples have been booked under very light charges, under section 23 of Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act for cruelty against juvenile or child, that has a maximum punishment of six months and fine.

But the activists claim that these couples should have been charged under section 317 of Indian penal code and JJ Act. IPC is a major offense and the punishment is for exposure and abandonment of child under 12 years by parents or person having care of such child. This section warrants punishment to the tune of seven years and fine or both.

"It is a clear case of exposure and abandonment of child under 12 years by parents or persons under whose care such child is, as per the provisions under section 317. The punishment for this offense is seven years and it should have sent the right message to offenders," says Benudhar Senapati, Member of Child Welfare Committee (CWC) Khordha. Ruchika Child line also has been advocating for harsher charges against these couples.

It is alleged that the police is soft pedaling the case. May be in the near future the government will declare relief for this poor family of Shyamachandra on humanitarian ground and accord various government schemes for the family. This is not too far fetched as that has been the practice even since Banita's episode.

Provisioning of various facilities, looks humanitarian and has to benefit of earning quick brownies, in reality such practices in a way promote child trade only. Such practices by the government do not in any way address the fundamental problem- the reason for the child trade - poverty and liquor addiction in this case.

And such freebies to the offenders or in some case the victims' suits the government fine. Because, by this, the episode of child trade rather than putting the government in the dock, helps it to pose as the benefactor. This has been going on since long and will continue as that suits the rulers.

The modus operandi is very simple. Sympathize the offenders for their abject poverty that has compelled them to sell their own child. So the poverty is blamed for the sale of the child. But, then how the poverty, the abstraction and the perpetrator of the crime, gets punished?

As the mai baap (sic) of the people, the government is to be blamed for it and should be punished. But, the tragedy is the representative of the government, minister Damodar Rout rather than apologizing for the failure of the government in taking care of its people and especially children, wonders why people are giving birth to so many children and what the government could do?

Rather Mr. rout should have been double apologetic as liquor along with the poverty comes into the picture. But he is too thick skinned for that. What kind of sensitivity can be expected from a government that has such ministers?

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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