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On ‘sting’ radar: docs in baby sale near city

Calcutta, Dec. 15: Two doctors and a suspected tout were detained and questioned today after a television sting purportedly showed babies put up on sale at a nursing home on the city’s southern fringes, allegedly in collusion with the local Trinamul-run panchayat.

At Usti, 40km from the heart of Calcutta, two 24 Ghanta reporters posing as a couple apparently struck a deal with a man identified as Ramzan with the help of the two doctors. The channel identified the doctors as Chandrani Roy and Kaushik Roy.

In the purported conversations, the decoys, doctors and the alleged tout bargain and fix the price for a newborn at Rs 1.6 lakh. The baby girl, according to the nursing home manager in the video, was born to an unwed mother.

Starting October 30, 2010, The Telegraph had carried a series of reports on how babies were on sale in Calcutta and how a child could be bought for Rs 2.5 lakh. It was found that unwed mothers were identified, kept hidden and “maintained” in nursing homes and hospitals for months before the delivery.

The manager, identified by the channel as Pintu in today’s video, is shown saying that “written consent” was taken from the girl’s family when the nursing home took custody of the baby.

The doctors, who were allowed to leave Usti police station around 9pm along with Ramzan, apparently told interrogators they were not involved in any baby deals and had no clue whether the nursing home’s staff were putting the baby up for sale.

An officer said: “We are verifying their statements. They may be summoned for interrogation again tomorrow.”

The video shows Ramzan promising that the panchayat would help the couple get a birth certificate from the Calcutta Municipal Corporation, and that the certificate would mention the couple as the baby’s biological parents.

The local Sheerakol panchayat is headed by Hafiza Biwi, wife of junior minority affairs minister Ghiyasuddin Mollah.

Mollah said he went to Samadhan Nursing Home after he learnt about the allegations. “I have told the police to act if anyone is found involved. But none of our party workers has anything to do with the nursing home.”

He suggested the sting could be a CPM conspiracy. “The CPM has been trying to malign me since I became an MLA,” the first-time MLA from Mograhat said.

This is what the video purportedly shows:

The reporters are led to a “small” room at the nursing home and a woman who seems to be an attendant brings the baby, wrapped in white cloth.

Pintu claims it is “a Caesar baby… born on December 2” and quotes a price of Rs 1.7 lakh.

The couple offer Rs 1.5 lakh. They are asked to pay Rs 10,000 more because, according to Pintu, even the nursing home sweeper gets a cut.

The reporters voice their worry about the difficulties of obtaining a birth certificate. One of the doctors is shown assuring them that they know some 2,000 people in the area, including the MLA, and it would not be a problem to show that the lady (reporter) had delivered a baby at a relative’s home in Usti.

The state child welfare department has started a probe. Minister Shyamapada Mukherjee said a team of senior officials, including the department’s secretary, director and a deputy director, had been sent to the nursing home, one of several in the area.

He said the team would collect information about the alleged sale of newborns through a network of doctors and officials. “We will definitely take strong action against all concerned if what has been shown is true,” Mukherjee said.

In the video, the lady doctor is shown saying the couple should pay an advance only if they are interested in the baby, because people usually don’t get the money back if they pull out later. The other doctor is shown certifying the baby’s health.