The Dalit couple alleged that hospital asked them to sell their newborn baby for Rs 1 lakh.

Publish Date: Tue, 01 Sep 2020 12:55 PM IST

Deepak Lavania | TNN | Updated: Sep 1, 2020, 13:41 IST

Shiv Charan and Babita, parents of the child at their rented homeAGRA: Babita, 36, underwent a C-section to deliver a baby boy last week. The procedure cost Rs 30,000, her medicines Rs 5,000. Neither she nor her husband Shiv Charan, a 45-year-old rickshaw puller, had the money. The hospital, the Dalit couple alleged, asked them to sell the baby to settle the bill — for Rs 1 lakh.
“This is a serious matter. It will be investigated and suitable action taken against those found guilty,” district magistrate Prabhu N Singh said after TOI reported the allegations to the district administration. Municipal ward councillor Hari Mohan said he was “aware that the couple had to sell their child for not being able to pay hospital bills.” Shiv Charan, he added, was facing a severe financial crisis.

The hospital dismissed the allegations and said the baby had not been “bought” but “given up” by the couple for adoption. “These claims are wrong. 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,” said Seema Gupta, manager of JP Hospital in the Trans-Yamuna locality.
Shiv, Babita and their five children live in a rented house at Shambhu Nagar in Agra. Shiv makes no more than Rs 100 a day — not every day — and his eldest son, 18 years old, used to work as a labourer at a shoe factory until it closed during the Covid-19 lockdown. No Asha worker visited them, they said, and no one helped them figure out where they could get free treatment when Babita was pregnant. “We are not covered under the Ayushman Bharat scheme either,” Shiv told TOI.

When Babita went into labour, Shiv said the hospital told them she needed a Caesarean section. “At 6.45pm on August 24, she gave birth to a boy.” But they didn’t have the money to cover the costs. “My wife and I can’t read or write. We gave thumb impressions on all documents, as the hospital asked. I didn’t get discharge papers, bills or any other papers,” Shiv said. They parted with the baby for Rs 1 lakh. Sources said such transactions are usually followed by babies, always boys, being “sold” to parents looking for easy adoption.

Child rights activist Naresh Paras said the explanation does not fulfil the mandate. “Every child adoption has to be done through a procedure laid down by the Central Adoption Resource Authority. The hospital administration’s claim of having a written agreement for adoption of a newborn holds no value. They have committed a crime.”

Babita, meanwhile, wants her child back. “We just needed some money,” she told TOI. Paras said addressing gaps in access to affordable healthcare would have prevented the entire incident. “The pregnant woman didn’t receive any benefit under the Integrated Child Development Scheme, the local anganwadi centre didn’t help, nor did Asha workers point her to the community health centre. The district administration should make sure this doesn’t happen again