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Food insecurity drove Odisha couple to sell baby, says RFC fact-finding report

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Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, June 2:

A five-member fact finding team of the Right to Food Campaign (RFC), Odisha which inquired into the incident of a poor couple in Nimapara selling their baby son for Rs 15000 on May 31 has come up with a report that says it was abject poverty and food insecurity that drove the couple to commit the crime.

The report also says the so-called food security schemes of the government has become outdated and are not enough to deal with the problem of food insecurity that hundreds of poor families covered under such schemes face on a daily basis.

The unedited report of the fact-finding committee is reproduced below :

A Fact-finding Report on Child Sale in Nimapara block under Puri district of Odisha
Organised by : Right to Food Campaign, Odisha

Introduction
Being terribly disturbed over the news report covered in all leading Odia dailies on 1.6.14 about sale of a 24-day old baby by the parents for Rs. 15,000/- due to extreme poverty, a 5-member team of Right to Food Campaign, Odisha had visited the spot to make an in-depth inquiry into the authenticity of the incident, factors responsible for this unfortunate incident in the civilized and modernized world, socio-economic condition of the family who sold their baby . The team members were Sri Dibakar Nayak , Member, Right to Food Campaign, Odisha, Sri Prasant Kumar Sahoo, Journalist, Sri Gadadhar Parida, Vice Precedent, Durniti Sangharsa Manch, Sri Ananda Senapati , Social Activist, Sri Umakanta Samantasinghar , Member of Durnti Sangharsa Manch), Sri Bikram Kumar Nayak , Human Rights Activist. During visit, the team interacted the family, villagers , Inspector In-charge, Nimapara to ascertain the fact and situation of the family leading to occurrence of this incident.

Incident of Child Sale highlighted in the Newspaper

It was reported that on 31.5.14, Sulochana Naik, w/o Trinath Naik both husband and wife inhabitant of Purneswari sahi under Nimapara NAC of Puri district had sold their baby (son) of 24 days to Kadambini Das and her husband Biranchi Das, inhabitant of Satyasai Nagar under Nimapara NAC of Puri district at the cost of Rs.15000(Fifteen Thousand) which was facilitated by a professional broker named Bijoy Naik of that locality. It was also reported that due to acute poverty situation, the parents have been forced to sell their child.

Visit of the Team

The Team visited Purneswari Sahi under Nimapara NAC of Puri district at 8.30 AM. While interacting with the villagers, it was found that Sulochana Naik and Trinath Naik who sold their baby is inhabitant of this village with six family members consisting of two sons and two daughters including this baby son. By profession, Trinath is a rickshaw puller. This is the only source of livelihood of the family. Trinath Naik is landless and poor. He is having BPL card and receiving 25 kg rice per month. He is also a beneficiary of old age pension scheme and receiving Rs. 300/- per month. They are staying in a broken thatched house covered with polythene. The family members could not take two square meal per day due to poverty. It was also found that he could not feed his children properly due to financial crisis. Due to his extreme old age, he could do much driving rickshaw.

Story Narrated by Sulochana Nayak

When the news about child sale broke out, the police took prompt action and arrested Trinath Naik at 8.30 PM. Finding absence of Trinath Naik in his house, the Team interacted with his wife Sulochana Naik to find out the issues behind this unfortunate incident. She said that the income generated by her husband Sri Trinath Naik was not sufficient to feed the children. Many times, they remain in hunger. The availability of benefits under PDS and Old Age Pension scheme is not enough to satisfy their hunger problem and to ensure food security. She also reported that her children are not getting any benefit like Chhatua,food in the centre under PCDS programme. While verifying the document, it was also found that her baby’s name has not been registered in Anganwadi centre. She also said that she was reluctant to sell the children. But her husband forced her to do it due to acute food crisis. They sold their child to Kadambini Das and her husband Biranchi Das, inhabitant of Satyasai Nagar under Nimapara NAC at the rate of Rs.15,000/- .
Intervention of the Administration

The Team visited the Nimapara Police Station to get information about steps taken by the police to deal this case. Dillip Kumar Tripathy, Inspector In Charge said that after getting the news, he enquired into the complaint and found true. He immediately registered the case no.103/14,under section 370(4),in IPC no.34 in 120-13/109 and arrested Trinath Naik and other accused Bijay Naik, Mediator, Smt. Kadambini Das and her husband Sri Biranchi Das who had purchased the baby, their daughter named Nirjharini Lenka and son-in-law Hemanta Lenka for whom baby was purchased. The Police also forwarded all the accused to Court on 1.6.14 in the afternoon. The police also recovered Rs. 14,000 from Sulochana Naik and Trinath Naik and found rest Rs. 1,000/- spent by Trinath Naik.

While making an query from Smt. Jasobanti Sahoo, CDPO, Nimapara about non-registration of her child in the Anganwadi centre and non-distribution of food to her children, she accused local Anganwadi Worker Pravati Naik responsible for it. She had started an enquiry into the matter.

Being disturbed over the news, Sri Atashi Dash, Tahashildar, Sri Subasis Mansing, BDO, Jasobanti Sahoo, CDPO visited the village and interacted with the family and villagers about the incident. Realizing their poverty situation, they provided cheque of Rs.10,000 from Red cross fund to Sulochana Naik . As they do not have account, the cheque has been given to the local Councilor for drawal of the money. It was also reported to the team that some quantity of rice has been given to the family.

Recommendations by the Team
After making an in-depth enquiry into this incident, the team observed that this is the case of hunger, extreme poverty and food insecurity situation of a poor family. This is one of hundreds of cases taking place in Odisha every day where the parents are forced to sell their children for food. This unfortunate incident took place due to failure of the State Govt. to ensure food security to the people which have been guaranteed under the Constitution.

The Team also observed that the food security programme undertaken by Govt was found outdated and lost its effectiveness to ensure food security of the poor and vulnerable families. Though the family is the recipient of benefits under two food security programme, it has not helped the family in any way to solve their food insecurity. The Team was astonished that the children of Sulochana Naik are not accessing food in Anganwadi centre under ICDS which has the mandate to check child malnutrition in the country.

Keeping in view the situation, the Fact-finding Team makes the following recommendations for the vulnerable families suffering from hunger in Odisha in general and this family in particular.

Recommendations

1. The Team is of the view that this is sheer negligence and indifferent attitude of the administration to ensure food security to the family. Their poverty situation is so high that they were forced to sell their child. So the administration should devise a practical feasible plan to ensure food security to the family of Trinath Naik . So that this unfortunate incident will not take place further in future.

2. It was found that the name of the children of this family has not been registered in Anganwadi Centre. This is the case of negligence of the Anganwadi worker and CDPO, nuapara for which the child has been deprived of getting any food under ICDS programme. The Team demands action against the AWC and CDPO and takes step to ensure food to the children at the earliest.

3. Finding the ineffectiveness of the food security programme to provide food security to this family, the team is of the view that the present form of food security programme is not enough to deal poverty and hunger situation of the poor people. Providing some amount of money or foodgrains is just like lip service and may not bring any permanent solution. So it is recommended to the State Govt. to constitute a High-Power Committee to make an analysis of the relevance of the schemes and requirement for modification of these schemes to deal the poverty condition of the family at the earliest.

4. The State Govt. should constitute a team in each district to find out the vulnerable families whose condition is extremely miserable and their survival at stake. Detailed Action plan should be devised family-wise to ensure food security to the families. So that the incidence of such unfortunate incidents will be avoided permanently in future.

5. The Team recommends to the State Govt. and district administration, Puri to take the steps to ensure food security of the poor people in Odisha and Puri district in particular by following the recommendations made by the team herewith.