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Two nuns arrested in Jharkhand for alleged child trafficking

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Ranchi Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Shyamanand Mandal said the two nuns of the Missionaries of Charity, who were arrested earlier in the day on charges of child trafficking, sold four babies. The nuns have been arrested in the Nirmal Hriday baby sale racket even as the district child welfare committee is mulling modalities to seal the Missionaries of Charity-run shelter that houses mentally challenged children, besides rescued girls.

Speaking to ANI, Mandal said, “These nuns sold four babies – three in Jharkhand and one in Uttar Pradesh. Further investigation is underway.”

Sister Koshleniea, the in-charge of the rescued girls’ section who was detained on Tuesday, was formally arrested on Thursday for her alleged complicity in selling a newborn boy to a childless couple from Uttar Pradesh.

This is the second arrest in the case after an employee of the shelter, Anima Indwar, was sent to judicial custody on Wednesday. The head of Nirmal Hriday’s Jail Road branch, Sister Meridian (not Nirmala as reported), is still being grilled.

The nuns were arrested earlier in the day in Jharkhand on charges of trafficking underage tribal girls.

Members of the Child Welfare Committee (CWC), Ranchi and the police interrogated the nuns at the premises of Missionaries of Charity, “Nirmal Hriday” on July 4, after an FIR was lodged on grounds of trafficking underage tribal girls.

Social welfare minister Louise Marandi expressed her concerns. “This is shocking. It has dented the image of Jharkhand. If the allegations are true, the shelter will be blacklisted. I will seek a report from the district administration.”

The social welfare department grants licence to a shelter under provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Child Care and Protection) Act, 2000. The document is valid for three years. The licence of Nirmal Hriday expired on May 24 this year, but the shelter had applied for renewal, sources said.

Kotwali thana OC S.N. Mandal claimed Sister Koshleniea had confessed that she had knowledge of at least four newborn babies being sold from the shelter. “The sister-in-charge has been arrested for complicity. Sister Meridian is still under detention. It is almost impossible that the racket was happening without her knowledge, but we need evidence,” the officer said.

The racket came to light after the couple from UP approached the child welfare committee on July 3 and their complaint prompted chairperson Rupa Verma to lodge an FIR.

Saurabh Kumar Agarwal and wife Priti claimed they had paid Rs 1.20 lakh to Nirmal Hriday on May 1 after which they were handed over a baby boy on May 14. On July 1, Anima asked them to come to the shelter on the pretext of completing formalities, apparently panicking over a child panel inspection. The baby was taken away and never returned.

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The child panel, which on Wednesday shifted 16 rescued girls to a state shelter in Namkum, said it was yet to decide how and where to relocate the 70-odd inmates before sealing the facility on Jail Road. “We also want to shift out 22 girls from Shishu Bhavan, another Missionaries of Charity-run shelter in Hinoo. We fear the children are not safe there too,” said Verma.

A statement issued by the Missionaries of Charity headquarters in Calcutta said: “We are completely shocked by what has happened in our home. This should not have happened. It is completely against our moral convictions. We are carefully looking into this matter. We will take all necessary precautions so that it never happens again.”

A spokesperson for Missionaries of Charity Sunita Kumar said their superior-general, Sister Prema, was away from the country and was expected back later this month. “We will thereafter take a call on this matter,” she said.

The Child Welfare Committee of the UNICEF is further probing the matter.

The CWC in the recent past has been constantly monitoring the situation at the Missionaries of Charity. Social welfare minister Louise Marandi expressed her concerns. “This is shocking. It has dented the image of Jharkhand. If the allegations are true, the shelter will be blacklisted. I will seek a report from the district administration.”

CWC members, led by Pratibha Tiwari, Tanushree Sarkar and President Rupa Kumari, along with the police, arrested the staff and rescued a child who was reportedly a part of child trafficking.