Mushalpur (Baksa), Aug. 25: Moniram Chetri and his wife Mohshini sat huddled in a corner at the deputy commissioner’s office at Mushalpur in Baksa district, anxiety writ large on their faces as they waited for the Assam State Commission for Protection of Child Rights to pronounce judgment here yesterday.
They had reasons to be anxious: they had sold off their daughter, their fourth child, for Rs 5,000 just a few hours after her birth.
Yet, anxiety notwithstanding, regret for their act was the last thing on their mind; acute poverty and deep-rooted superstition had seen to that.
“I kept falling ill soon after I conceived her and a relative even warned that my husband and I would die if we kept her,” Mohshini said of her child, nearly 10 months old now.
“So I decided to give her away soon after her birth. I don’t want her back as the couple that took her are taking good care of her,” she said.
The Chetris, who hail from Sashipur village in Daranga in Baksa district, had been summoned by the Assam State Commission for Protection of Child Rights to Mushalpur yesterday for a hearing on the illegal sale of their infant daughter to a childless Bengali couple from nearby Angarkata village.
“I was very worried and confided in my neighbour Shanti Chetri that I did not wish to keep the child. A childless couple known to Shanti approached us and offered us Rs 5,000 for the child. So after giving birth to my daughter in a government hospital in Kumarikatta, I gave her to the couple. We spent Rs 1,000 on hospital bills,” said Mohshini.
“I support my wife’s decision. After all she started falling ill and used to suffer from frequent fits after conceiving the bay. Even after delivery, her health has not improved much .We don’t want it back,” said Moniram.
The lack of nutritional diet and medical care during pregnancy probably affected Mohshina’s health.
“The mother of the child already has three children and their birth had taken a toll on her health. Poverty prevented her from consuming nutritional food during pregnancy, leading to her ill-health. But being superstitious, she blames the infant for everything,” said Devika Das, district social welfare officer of Baksa.
Accompanying the Chetris at the hearing was Shanti. “I was visiting my mother’s home in Sashipur when Mohshini told me that she wished to give away her baby as she would bring bad luck to the family. After returning home, I was discussing it with my mother-in-law when the childless couple from Angarkata village, who were passing by, heard us. They requested me to show them the house of the Chetris, which I did. After that I never saw them again,” said Shanti, who resides with her in-laws in another village near Angarkata.
The three children of the Chetris — two daughters, aged 10 years and eight years, and a four year-old son — study at a government lower primary school in their village.
Moniram is a daily wage earner and earns Rs 150-200 a day. They reside in a rented house, which costs them Rs 300 every month.
“We are very poor and cannot afford good food for our children. Since the past two days my husband is out of work and hence there is no rice at home,” said Mohshina.
By the time the hearing ended, the Chetris were breathing easy. The commission asked them to collect the child from its foster parents and hand her over to its shelter and legally put her up for adoption.
“As the couple has been bringing up the baby as their own, they can legally apply to adopt her,” said Runumi Gogoi, chairperson of the commission.