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Four sold babies only tip of iceberg

Nirmal Hriday in Ranchi didn't share record of two dozen births, say police & social welfare

Nirmal Hriday on Jail Road in Ranchi

Ranchi: Nirmal Hriday, the Missionaries of Charity-run shelter here, sold at least four newborn babies while 24-26 others are still unaccounted for, police and social welfare officials have said amid demands for a CBI probe into the charity's financial dealings.

Of the four babies, three have been found, the third being recovered on Wednesday from a foster home, more than a week after the racket surfaced. While police on record said the 13-month-old girl, apparently sold for Rs 50,000, was staying with a resident of Kokar in the capital, sources said the foster parents hailed from Simdega, 120km from here.

District social welfare officer Kanchan Singh said preliminary investigations by child welfare committee members, who were tipped off by a conned couple from UP on July 3, revealed that the number of unaccounted for babies was 26 if calculated since January 1, 2017.

"During this period, 74 minor girls gave birth as per Nirmal Hriday records. But, the child welfare committee was apprised of 48. Details of the rest are not known till date," said Singh.

Police spokesperson and ADG (operations) R.K. Mallick, however, pegged the number of "missing babies" at 24. "According to the IO (investigation officer) at Kotwali thana, 121 unwed mothers gave birth and 97 babies are accounted for," he told this newspaper, but didn't mention any specific time period.

DGP D.K. Pandey has written to home secretary S.K.G. Rahate, recommending a CBI probe into financial dealings of all shelters run by the Missionaries of Charity, a communiqué from the police headquarters said.

Pandey, in his letter, cited 12 homes run by the charity in different districts. The letter pointed out that records available on Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010, website suggested that the Missionaries of Charity and its affiliates had received Rs 927.27 crore since 2006-07 in donations.

"The state police can probe financial dealings of up to Rs 1 crore only under the foreign contribution act. Hence, a probe by a central agency is needed," the letter read.

Home secretary Rahate could not be contacted for his comments.

Kotwali thana OC S.N. Mandal said the toddler girl was recovered from one Shailaja Tirkey, a resident of Mission Colony in Kokar. She happens to be the daughter-in-law of Congress leader and former Kolebira MLA Theodore Kiro.

"Earlier, we had recovered two babies. One was sold to the UP couple for Rs 1.2 lakh in May and another to a Morabadi family for Rs 50,000. The first baby was rescued on July 3 and the second baby was found on Sunday," he said.

Kiro, who was also a minister in undivided Bihar, denied they had bought the baby. "The girl was born on June 12 last year and we adopted her a few days later. The unwed mother of the baby, who hails from Latehar, stayed with us for 10 days. Thereafter, she regularly visited her baby," he said.

Ever since the baby sale racket surfaced on July 3, there has been a statewide crackdown on child care institutions, with six in Ranchi facing showcause and glaring lapses being found in three in neighbouring Khunti. East Singhbhum too has started verifying credentials of seven shelters operating in the district.

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