The illegal trafficking of children for adoption came to light in June this year with the arrest of the head of Gurukul Godavari Balak Ashram for illegal sale of a HIV-positive child to a childless couple.
Irregularities in the adoption process took centrestage with the arrest of the head of Preet Mandir adoption agency for alleged involvement in wrong adoption practices in August.
The incidents put all the adoption agencies and orphanages in the city under the scanner, raising questions about the role of women
and child development commissionerate, with its
headquarter in Pune.
The Yerawada police arrested Mathew Rayappa Yanmal (49), head of Gurukul Godavari Balak Ashram, on June 2 for selling an infant to a couple in Mumbai for Rs1 lakh.
The couple had lodged a complaint after the baby died. Yanmal had concealed the fact that the child was HIV-positive. He obtained a fake birth certificate of the deceased child with the help of headmaster of Namdeo Harpale Anusuchit Jati Jamati Primary and Secondary School, Somnath Bhimrao Shinde (43) of Phursungi.
Yanmal was later charged for taking another child born out of wedlock into custody illegally. The arrest of his accomplice, Shivaji Cholappa Sanake, the sacked caretaker of Preet Mandir, further complicated the matter.
Another major development was the arrest of 71-year-old Joginder Singh Bhasin, the founder of Preet Mandir, one of the biggest adoption agencies in the city, for illegal adoption practices on August 10.
The petitions filed in the Bombay high court by city-based NGOs, Advait Foundation and Sakhee, in 2006 and 2007 put the agency in the eye of the storm.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probed the matter twice and gave a clean chit. The Central Adoption Resource Agency (Cara), the apex body in adoption, too said that no irregularities were found in the Preet Mandir case.
In May 2010, the CBI accepted there were irregularities and that government officials too were involved. They registered a case leading to Bhasin’s arrest.
He was released on bail on August 17. However, the agency succeeded in bringing a stay on the transfer of children from the two units of Preet Mandir.
The developments kept the women and child development staff and the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) on their toes while their ineffectiveness in controlling the adoption racket came to the fore.
Despite many illegal orphanages flourishing in the city, the department had not registered a single case over the last year. Even the Gurukul Godavari Balak Ashram was unregistered and no action had been taken.
The development also revealed that the tendency of childless couples to hide the fact of adoption, the high demand for infants and the long procedural wait for adoptive parents was driving the illegal racket.
Another adoption case that made headlines was that of an India-born German national, Arun Dhole, who was adopted from the city-based Kusumbai Motichand Mahila Seva Gram. His 17-year-old legal battle to know about his biological mother came to an end when the Supreme Court allowed him to see the records of the adoption agency.