The Great Indian adoption racket across four continents
1 Sep 2008, 0530 hrs IST, Lakshmy Ramanathan,TNN

CHENNAI: Seven thirty on a chill February evening: residents of the Pulianthope slum off the Pulianthope high road in North Chennai had gathered outside their shanties to cook their last meal for the day.
Older kids played by the light of dimming street lamps. As the lights went out for a split second, a figure skulking in the darkness, moved in swiftly, picking up 1 year-old Subash N who had been laid to sleep on a thin blanket.

"My wife had gone to fetch water when the lights went off. By the time she came back, our child was gone," says Nageshwar Rao, whose son Subash went missing on February 18, 1999. The abduction had taken place in front of several elders and 15 other children who had been playing nearby.

Subash was one among three children identified by the city crime branch (CCB) in 2005 to have been abducted by Thiruverkadu-based adoption agency, Malaysian Social Service (MSS) for inter-country adoption purposes . Nageshwar Rao, the father of the boy, says that three new people had moved into the slum to identify and narrow down on potential victims.

"We have had no help from the authorities so far. In fact, when I pestered the police about where in America, my son was, they threatened to put me behind bars. The last time we were contacted by any investigating team was six months back when the CBI took over the case," says a wretched but resolved Nageshwar.

In the first three years that his son went missing, Nageshwar mounted a search party that worked its way to the city of Hyderabad. Relief came only six years later when the police learned about MSS' illegal activities, by closing in on the whereabouts of one of the other victims, Jabeen Saalia.

Jabeen, a chirpy 3-year-old, was whisked away right before her brother, Sadaam Hussein's eyes. Hussein had brought her to a nearby tea-stall to get her a drink. "Ammi had to go to the market and little Jabeen had asked for water. So I took her to the stall and just I was paying the cashier, a man swooped down and made away with her into a waiting auto," says Hussein who was the last in the Saalia family to see their pretty-eyed, Jabeen.

It was with this 3-year-old's case that the CCB came to know of the inter-country adoption racket. Accusations of child kidnapping between two men at a local bar in 2005 alerted the police. Two men (Sheikh Dawood and Manoharan) and women (Sabeera and Nawjeen) working for MSS were picked up. Authorities then closed in on the adoption agency's owners, PV Ravindranath and wife Vatsala, and seized files of 120 children sent overseas for adoption. Thirteen had been sent to Australia. One file matched with Jabeen's picture.

For the first time in seven years the Saalia household celebrated Id. But their joy was to be short-lived . Investigations dragged on for two years. It took a habeas corpus writ filed by human rights lawyers for the high court to direct CBI to take over the case in 2007. It was in the first week of August this year that the CBI sent an Interpol request to track down the Queensland-based family that had adopted Jabeen. "I want to see my aulad (child)," says Jabeen's mother, Fatima . "I want to kiss her, feel her grown-up face. She will return to us, won't she?" she asks doubtfully. Today, the Saalia household is filled with the laughter of three kids. A parrot squawks in the background. But Fatima and her husband continue to feel lonely.

It's a longing shared by Nagarani and her husband, E Kathirvel too, who lost their 1 ½ year old Satish Kumar , the youngest of three sons, in October 1999. Picked up from the pavement where the entire family was asleep, Satish has now been traced to Netherlands where the Bisessars have christened him Anbu Rohit Bisessar. But the Kathirvels, unlike the other two families, realise that their relationship with their son will never be the same.

"I am not denying that he might be brought up in a completely different and possibly, a more luxurious environment. But that doesn't mean that I can't be allowed to meet him. I want to see my son again, even if not to reunite," says Nagarani.

Racket Busted

1993- '98:

MSS facilitates stolen kids for inter-country adoptions to unsuspecting foster parents

1999:

MSS has its licence revoked after a staff is arrested for kidnapping four babies from a local hospital. Is later given back its licence

2001:

CARA, responsible for clearing children for intercountry adoption, finds that MSS had done little to place kids with Indian parents. Various other discrepancies and negligence vis a vis the children's health also discovered

2005:

Police overhear accusations of child abduction during a brawl between two men at a local bar

Four people- Sheikh Dawood, Manoharan, Sabeera and Nawjeen who were arrested spill the beans on the adoption racket. MSS owners PV Ravindranath and Vatsala picked up

Police track down the address of three children to Australia, Netherlands and the USA

2007:

Habeas corpus writ filed. High court directs CBI to take over case

July '07- Court issues letter rogatory to facilitate CBI interrogation of foster parents

INTER-COUNTRY ADOPTION RULES

a) Should largely conform to Central Adoption Resource Agency (CARA) established in 1990, UN Declaration of the rights of the child of 1989, Hague Convention of 1993 (All three lay down that a child without a family of its own should be placed with a family within its own socio-cultural milieu. Inter-country adoption is therefore to be seen as a secondary option) b) Authorised inter-country adoption homes are called Recognised Indian Placement Agencies (RIPAs) c) In case of malpractice by a adoption home, state governments need to inform CARA. Kids should be moved out of the defaulting agency.

Source Times Of India - 1-Sep-2008