Mani Kumari Singh and one of her granddaughters (faces blurred) stand outside their hut in Sundaribusty on Friday. Picture by Biplab Basak
May 30: A girl who was born in the Jalpaiguri district hospital on May 25 was sold to a childless couple for Rs 13,000 by her mother and grandmother who said they had made the deal because of acute poverty.
The couple who paid the money and took away the baby on Tuesday, soon after the mother and the child were discharged from the hospital, have not been identified.
The baby was Gouri Das’s fourth girl child.
The 38-year-old woman and her mother Mani Kumari Singh stay in a decrepit hut at Sundaribusty, a slum along the Jalpaiguri-Mainaguri railway tracks near Denguajhar Tea Estate on the outskirts of Jalpaiguri .
The slum has 50-60 families and most of the people are daily labourers with BPL cards.
Gouri’s three other daughters are aged between five and eight years. The family runs on the earnings of 70-year-old Mani Kumari who begs in Jalpaiguri town every day and brings home Rs 10-12 daily.
Gouri said her husband had gone missing last year.
When The Telegraph visited their hut, the girls were playing nearby and Gouri, who is yet to recover after the delivery of the fourth baby, was inside with her mother arranging food.
“We live in utter poverty and my mother goes out everyday to beg in Jalpaiguri town. There is no other source of income. My father died several years ago and my husband has been missing since October. Whatever money my mother manages to collect is used to buy the weekly ration at the BPL rate of Rs 41. We often sleep after having only one meal a day,” Gouri, 38, said.
The ration includes rice, wheat, kerosene and sugar.
“I was pregnant when my husband went missing. After I gave birth to the girl, a childless couple from Belakoba asked me to give them my child. They said they would pay Rs 13,000. We grabbed the offer with the hope that my child would have a better life and we would be able to get rid of the poverty for some time. I do not repent my decision,” she said.
Belakoba is in Rajganj block of Jalpaiguri district, 25km from Sundaribusty. The area is under Paharpur panchayat of Sadar Block in Jalpaiguri.
Gouri got married to Palash, a resident of Malda, around nine years ago. He used to work as a daily labourer and stayed in the same hut in which the family resides now. The house on railway land belongs to Mani Kumari.
Gouri could not furnish any details of the couple who took away the newborn. She said she had their telephone number written in a piece of paper but she could not find it.
“We could not afford even one square meal a day for five people. How could we afford to raise another girl? The family runs on the money I get by begging. I have not received old age pension or a hut under the Indira Awas Yojana. What else could we do?” said Mani Kumari. “Even as I took my daughter to the hospital for the delivery, I had to borrow Rs 100 from a neighbour,” said the woman who walks over 10km everyday collecting alms.
No police complaint has been filed in connection with the incident, sources said.
As the incident came to light, Francis Bora, the CPM panchayat member of Sundaribusty, said: “I had issued a letter to Gouri that could help her deliver in the hospital and enable her to get benefits meant for those in the BPL category. I had no clue that she had sold her child. It is true that the family does not get much assistance. We will see that her mother gets pension at the earliest. It would take some time to provide them with a house under the housing scheme.”
Jalpaiguri district magistrate Pritha Sarkar said she had sought a report from subdivisional officer Sima Haldar by tomorrow. Haldar has instructed the inspector in-charge of Kotwali police station to conduct a probe. “We have asked the police to collect details about the woman’s admission and delivery. The BDO and the panchayat have been asked to report to us. If the family is living in acute poverty, assistance would be extended.”