What should have been a time of joy has become every parent’s worst nightmare for one couple.
On Aug. 24, Shiv Charan, 45, and his wife Babita, 36, gave birth to a boy, their sixth child, in Agra, India. Babita’s labor, performed via cesarean section, would have cost the couple some 30,000 Indian rupees, plus another 5,000 rupees for drug costs. In total, their bill was shaking out to approximately $480 — which, unfortunately, the couple did not have.
Now, the vulnerable couple, who cannot read or write, alleges that JP Hospital, in the Trans Yamuna section of Agra, manipulated them into selling their baby, possibly into adoption, for a price of one lakh (100,000 rupees), or about $1,370.
“We gave thumb impressions on all documents, as the hospital asked,” Shiv told the Times of India. “I didn’t get discharge papers, bills or any other papers.”
“We just needed some money,” said Babita, who is now fighting to get their baby back. The parents have said they were unaware of the situation into which they were being pushed.
According to local media, hospitals in the region have been known to coerce destitute parents into giving away their babies in exchange for money.
The family of seven live in a rented home, and are currently surviving on just over $1 per day after losing work to the coronavirus pandemic.
The couple explained that they had hoped to find more affordable health-care services, but the hospital offered no guidance in that regard. Experts now blame gaps in public health-care access — and unethical hospital practices — for their troubles.
“It will be investigated and suitable actions taken against those found guilty,” said Magistrate Prabhu N. Singh, who described it as a “serious matter.”
Child rights activist Naresh Paras told the Times that the hospital’s claim of a written agreement had “no value” in court without approval from the Central Adoption Resource Authority of India. “They have committed a crime.”
“The pregnant woman didn’t receive any benefit under the Integrated Child Development Scheme, the local anganwadi [child-care] center didn’t help, nor did Asha workers point her to the community health center. The district administration should make sure this doesn’t happen again,” said Paras.
However, hospital manager Seema Gupta maintained that the baby had not been “bought” but that the family had knowingly “given up” the child for adoption.
“These claims are wrong,” said Gupta. “We didn’t force him to give up his child. He did so of his own accord. I have a copy of the written agreement signed by the parents, expressing his willingness.”