September 3, 2008

Was "your" adoptee stolen? Are you SURE?

Missing Identity
© Photographer: Doosem | Agency:
The Great Indian adoption racket across four continents
1 Sep 2008 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 11Ž2 year-old Subash N who had been laid to sleep on a thin

"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 Â1Ž2 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


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


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


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


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


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.

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