is lucky. A distant relative, who wanted to settle a score with his
parents Prem Sagar and Arti, kidnapped Mohit on May 10 and abandoned
him at the Old Delhi railway station. Fortunately, he was rescued and
sent to the Delhi Council for Child Welfare, a private adoption agency
better known by its other name, Palna.
their urge to mint money, these agencies have separated many
kids from their natural homes,
says a DSW
A frantic Sagar
traced his boy to Palna and reached there on the morning of May 11.
The officials there were extremely uncooperative. The parents were not
allowed to meet their son. “After hours of waiting and pleading,
Mohit was finally shown only to my wife and that too from a distance
of some 10-15 yards,” says Sagar.
As the weekend fell
over the next two days, Palna officials flatly told the parents that
they could take Mohit home only on Monday, three days later. “They
again refused to entertain us on Monday. We then had to go to the juvenile
court, which directed us to the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) in Kingsway
Camp,” Sagar told Tehelka.
The government has
established CWCs all over the country for the welfare of children who
need care and protection. CWC’s are vested with judicial powers
and on CWC’s orders and the intervention of some good Samaritans,
Mohit was finally restored to his family on May14.
case Palna disregarded two cardinal rules spelled out in the Juvenile
Justice Act (JJA).
»It is mandatory
for the police or Childline (a centralised number for missing kids 1098)
or any voluntary organisation to produce a missing child before a CWC.
should be made to restore the child to his or her biological parents.
Over 34,000 children
have gone missing in Delhi in the last 20 years (as per National Crime
Records Bureau (NCRB) data). Most of them aren’t as fortunate
as Mohit. In last three years alone, 6,687 children in Delhi have been
declared untraceable by the Crime Branch’s Missing Persons Squad.
A senior Department of Social Welfare (DSW) official lays the blame
for this on voluntary adoption agencies. “They are fated to live
either an orphan’s or an adopted child’s life, all thanks
to various voluntary organisations,” he says.
just one instance of how rules under the Juvenile Justice Act (JJA)
and Central Adoption Resource Agency (CARA) guidelines to help missing,
abandoned and runaway children are routinely ignored. Instead of providing
them a ray of hope, adoption agencies only add to their misery.
children have been reported missing in Delhi
in the last 20 years
children have been declared untraceable between 2004 and
Indian couples are waitlisted on an average with each agency.
Non-Indians are still preferred
10,000 is the maximum amount non-Indian
couples can be charged for adopting a child
2,00,000 is the minimum amount non-Indians
pay to adopt an Indian child
is the average amount paid by Indian couples to adopt a
child. By law they should just pay for the expenses
on the functioning of adoption agencies issued by DSW and accessed by
Tehelka reveal how Palna routinely flouts norms and rules. A 2005 DSW
report states, “Childline and the police are unduly helping the
agency [Palna] in procuring children for it in violation of statutory
provisions.” It calls Palna’s style of functioning “whimsical,
arbitrary and manipulated.”
The report also
charges Palna with not presenting children before the CWC or the police.
“Why did Palna receive them [the children] and keep them without
producing them before the committee. The matter requires to be taken
up with the Commissioner of Police,” it says.
The report also
says that Palna charges an arbitrary amount of money from people who
adopt children — both Indians and foreigners. “All this
also reveals how the police and Childline are flouting the statutory
and mandatory provisions of JJA, and putting the welfare and fate of
innocent children at stake at the hands of such agency [Palna].”
At the time there
were 10 placement agencies for orphans and abandoned or lost children
in Delhi (eight of those continue to operate) and, according to the
DSW’s confidential reports, their style of functioning is not
very different from Palna’s. “Further investigation of these
organisations revealed that they are not providing any social service
to anyone,” says another report. “They are getting children
through legal or illegal means and are selling them in the market. The
foreigners give higher prices therefore they prefer to sell them to
agencies ignore the poor in the list of prospective parents since
they canít cough up enough money
Clause 4.35 of CARA
guidelines unambiguously states that an adoption agency must be run
on a non-profit basis and it shouldn’t look to make money from
adoption. Documents with Tehelka show that recognised adoption agencies
such as the Church of North India, Welfare Home for Children and Palna,
among others, charge about Rs 20,000 on an average from Indians, instead
of just the amount to take care of expenses. The guidelines specify
that foreigners can be charged a maximum of Rs 10,000 but they routinely
have to pay lakhs of rupees.
is a lucrative business. This could explain why organisations don’t
make any special efforts to restore children to their biological parents,
and why children are not produced before the CWC.
The reports also
point out that adoption agencies ignore prospective parents in the waiting
list who are poor and unable to cough up a high sum of money. SC and
CARA guidelines also specify that Indians have to be given preference
over foreigners for adoption, but despite there being a long queue of
hopeful Indian adoptive parents, adoption agencies do the opposite and
prefer foreign nationals seeking to adopt children.
The JJA states that
before putting up a child for adoption, the adoption agency must publish
his particulars in at least four leading newspapers, of which two must
be in regional languages. But “private adoption agencies …
have resorted to just a farcical eyewash, by publishing their self proclaimed
names and self estimated dates of birth without any photograph, that
too only of a few children, in some less popular newspapers, off and
on only.” The report says that the agencies do this, “to
avoid finding their natural parents.” Commenting on this a CWC
member asks, “How can parents recognise their offspring by such
an absurd publication which does not even have the child’s correct
agencies seldom prepare child histories, in total disregard of the directives
of the Supreme Court. Such history sheets could help in tracing the
natural parents of a lot of children… These agencies have thus
separated innumerous (sic) children from their natural homes…
in their urge to mint money through adoptions.”
parents not reached Palna, says a senior DSW official, “he would
have been in Palna for months without the required effort to trace his
family. The agency then would have secured a release order — mandatory
to give a child in adoption — from the CWC, finally to give him
to a total stranger in return for a huge amount of money.”
This, sources say,
is the fate of most children found alone in Delhi. But, what has happened
to the reports prepared by some honest DSW officers? “There were
all sorts of pulls and pressure on the then director of DSW, Jitendra
Narayan, as these agencies are run by very powerful people. Narayan,
was ultimately transferred and the new dispensation, after sitting on
the matter for a whole year, did nothing more than giving a mild warning
to all the organisations,” says a DSW official.