| The baby boy in the arms of his relative at the hospital on Thursday. Picture by Ranjeet Kumar Dey |
A woman was caught while allegedly trying to smuggle an infant out of the maternity ward of Patna Medical College and Hospital on Thursday.
Thursday’s attempt, if successful, would have been the third child-theft in 10 months at the hospital.
“Considering the number of incidents, definitely, a racket is at work. In this case, the infant and his relatives were lucky. Meera Devi, a Jakkanpur resident, was admitted to the ward on March 18. She gave birth to a baby boy the next afternoon. Around 5am on Thursday, Meera and her sister-in-law Urmila Devi were sound asleep when a woman, identified as Sangita, came and quietly picked up the child. She was on her way out with the infant when Urmila woke up,” an officer at the Pirbahore police station told The Telegraph.
“Luckily, I woke up suddenly to see the woman taking the child away. She saw me and stopped. When I confronted her, she said she had picked up the baby because it was wailing. I immediately raised an alarm and the security guard at the gate came and caught her. We are lucky that our child is still with us,” a shaken Urmila said.
On December 31, last year, a middle-aged woman had stolen an infant from the same ward just four hours after it was born.
CCTV cameras in the ward captured a woman getting out of the ward with the child. The infant has not been found even three months later.
In May last year, one Meena Devi had stolen an infant from the same ward. “In all these cases, the stolen infants were males. In last May’s incident, the police managed to recover the infant five days later from an under-construction building. A childless family had employed Meena Devi to lift the baby. She had even approached a private clinic to obtain a birth certificate for the infant. Meena Devi remains at large,” another police officer told The Telegraph.
“Women like her are known to roam the maternity ward of the hospital posing as attendants or hospital staff and pick up infants who are then sold to childless infants. Considering that only male infants have been targeted for theft so far, the preference, it seems, is for male infants. Investigations are on but the racket could involve many private clinics where childless couples come for treatment. The role of some hospital insiders cannot be ruled out,” the officer said.
With Thursday’s arrest, the police hope to get some major leads after interrogating Sangita. The police believe she might be part of a gang or racket involved in child-thefts. However, the face of the accused was matched with that of the child-lifter in the December 31 CCTV grab but no resemblance was found, the officer said.