280 babies missing? Why CBI needs to probe Missionaries of Charity scandal

It now seems that the baby-selling racket unearthed at Missionaries of Charity in Ranchi could be much bigger than anyone could have imagined.

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As per the report in The New Indian Express:

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According to police sources, 450 pregnant women were admitted in various homes, run by the order founded by St Teresa, here between 2015 and 2018, but there are records of only 170 childbirths and no information about the remaining 280.

“We are investigating all angles… of the sale of children to childless couples. We have gone through records of the pregnant women and newborn babies. There are discrepancies in the records,” a police official investigating the case told IANS.

So as many as 450 pregnant women were admitted in various homes but only 170 childbirths have been recorded. What happened to the other 280?

This is no longer a crime that could have been managed by one or two nuns and one or two low-level employees. If as many as 280 babies have been trafficked, it would require an active nationwide distribution network to match the “customers” to the traffickers. And there would have to be a sophisticated system of making illegal payments at every link in that chain.

The Jharkhand Police may have blown the lid off something massive here. At the very least, this calls for a full-scale CBI inquiry.

And we cannot just assume that the babies were sold to childless couples. The children could have been handed over to anybody … paedophiles, organ harvesters …. absolutely anybody. We really don’t know how cruel child traffickers can get.

There are four things that need to happen here.

First, there needs to be a CBI inquiry. Only the CBI would have the expertise and the authority to investigate this matter with the seriousness it deserves.

Second, the top administration of Missionaries of Charity can no longer dissociate themselves casually from this massive scandal. So far, they have been let off with “form denials”, with mere disclaimers and condemnations and some vague promises of an internal investigation. It is time to put their top management in the dock. A scandal of this magnitude is not likely to have happened without their active connivance.

Third, the scope of the investigation needs to be nationwide. This should take the form of massive search, seize and rescue operations at properties of Missionaries of Charity across the country. This is also a time sensitive matter since any delay could give time to the offenders to destroy records that would expose their crimes.

Finally, the mainstream media and social media should put together a massive awareness campaign to prevent more expectant mothers from falling into the hands of these child traffickers. The Jharkhand government has already blacklisted the Missionaries of Charity, but it is important that other states follow suit and further, that the general public should become aware of it. Whether the mainstream media will cooperate is anybody’s guess, especially because of the religious identity of the accused. This makes it a job for social media to take up as a top priority because child trafficking has no religion. We can’t let them be protected by the veil of secularism.

Abhishek Banerjee is a math lover who may or not be an Assistant Professor at IISc Bangalore.

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