CHENNAI, India (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Indian authorities said on Thursday they have sealed a home run by Mother Teresa’s religious order and charged a nun and one other person with baby trafficking.
The home in eastern India’s Jharkhand state is run by Missionaries of Charity, the order set up by Mother Teresa in India, and provides shelter for pregnant unmarried women.
“They have said that at least five to six babies have been sold to childless couples,” police officer Aman Kumar told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a phone interview.
“We are investigating to see how the operation was run and how many more children have been given away in the last few years.”
The Missionaries of Charity did not respond to calls for comment.
Arti Kujur, head of the Jharkhand State Child Protection Society, said the home was charging between 40,000 Indian rupees (about $600) and 100,000 rupees for each baby, depending on what the childless couple could afford.
“We had been receiving many complaints regarding the functioning of this home and were keeping a close watch on them for nearly six months,” he said.
The Missionaries of Charity stopped organizing adoptions in India in 2015 saying they disagreed with government rules that made it easier for single, divorced, and separated people to adopt children.
There have been a number of reports of babies and children being trafficked through charity-run homes and hospitals, which campaigners say is driven by a long waiting list for adoption.
The Nirmala Shishu Bhavan home run by the Missionaries of Charity in Jharkhand state capital Ranchi was required to inform authorities about all babies born there.
“They were selling more babies than what they were handing over to authorities, said Baidnath Kumar, a Ranchi-based child rights activist who had filed complaints against the home.
Kujur said his organization had directed that the credentials of every home run in the state should be checked.
“We hear that babies are being sold in other homes as well and are determined to put a stop to it,” he said.
Reporting by Anuradha Nagaraj, Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking and climate change. Visit news.trust.org