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Price of poverty: newborn sold by mother for Rs 13000

May 30: A mother of four in Jalpaiguri whose husband is missing and whose sole source of sustenance is the alms her mother gets has sold her two-day-old daughter to a childless couple for Rs 13,000.

Gouri Das, 38, who lives in a slum along the railway tracks on the outskirts of Jalpaiguri town with her elderly mother and three daughters, said she did not repent her decision as the money earned from begging was not enough to feed five mouths more than once a day.

Gouri’s labourer husband has been missing since October, when she was pregnant with her fourth child. She could not give much information on the couple who bought the baby on Tuesday, saying she met them after being discharged from hospital.

“We live in abject poverty and my 70-year-old mother goes to Jalpaiguri town every day to beg. Our family has no other source of income. My father died several years ago and my husband is missing since October. Whatever money my mother manages to collect, we use it to buy our weekly ration at BPL rates. On most days, we cannot afford more than one meal a day,” said Gouri, a resident of Sundaribusty near Denguajhar Tea Estate along the Jalpaiguri-Mainaguri railway tracks.

“After I was discharged from the hospital, a childless couple from Belakoba (25km from Sundaribusty) requested me to give them my baby. They said they would pay Rs 13,000, which is a lot of money for us. We accepted the offer in the hope that at least one of my daughters would get a better life. I do not repent my decision,” Gouri said.

When this correspondent visited Gouri’s shanty today, she was lying on a bed, recuperating after childbirth. Her mother Mani Kumari was cooking. Gouri’s three daughters, aged between five and eight years, were playing outside. Her husband Palash had been living in the same shanty since their marriage nine years ago.

Asked about the couple who bought the baby, Gouri said she had written down their phone number on a piece of paper but could not find it.

Mani Kumari said she did not get old-age pension from the government.

“We cannot afford even one meal a day for five persons. How can we afford to raise another girl? The family runs on the Rs 10-12 I get by begging. I neither receive old-age pension from the state government nor have I got a hut under the Indira Awas Yojana,” she said.

Mani Kumari said she had to borrow Rs 100 from a neighbour to take her daughter to the hospital for the delivery.

Francis Bora, the local CPM panchayat member, said he would ensure Mani Kumari got the old-age pension at the earliest. “It is true that the family does not get much assistance. But I had no clue that they had sold the baby,” he said.

No police complaint has been filed, sources in the administration said. “Most people in Sundaribusty are poor. They are daily wage earners. But I have rarely heard that people in the area are starving,” Bora said.

Sima Haldar, the subdivisional officer of Jalpaiguri, said she had asked the block development officer and local panchayat representatives to look into the baby sale and “report to us”. “If the family is living in acute poverty, necessary assistance will be extended.”

Haldar, on instructions from the district magistrate, has asked the police to “collect details” about Gouri’s admission to the hospital and the delivery, how and to whom the newborn was sold and whether anybody else was involved.