The din and clatter of the political news that dominates the Indian newspapers pages, often undermines many fascinating stories. Many of them are social relevant themes and need a great deal of attention as they tell about the real social change taking place in India. I have tried to pick up few random themes to project a different face of India. They are about the practice of surrogacy that’s assuming a business like proposition, international adoption racket that’s clandestinely being carried out in India and last but not the least, the cyber crime that’s assuming alarming proposition. All of them give a fascinating account of India, quite contrary to what’s being marketed as; shining India, India on roll and Chuck De India.
Surrogacy in India is estimated to be a $445 million business with the country becoming a leading service provider in this human issue. This is because of the low cost of treatment and the ready availability of women willing to rent their wombs. In comparison to USA where surrogacy cost is about $70,000, it costs only $12,000 in India.
The issue had shot into limelight when a surrogate mother in Gujarat gave birth to a girl ‘Manji’. The baby's parents, Ikufumi, 45, and his wife Yuki, 41, came to India a year ago and hired the service of a surrogate mother from Anand town in Gujarat. However, before the baby was born the couple separated and then divorced.
Manji's father claimed the custody of the child but Indian laws do not permit this and the issue got entangled in legal battle. The Supreme Court finally granted Manji's custody to her 74-year-old grandmother but this was contested by an NGO named ‘Satya’ claiming that Manji was an abandoned baby. This made the Supreme Court to ask the central government to clarify its stand on issues related to surrogacy, particularly parentage and citizenship.
Even though there is still no clarity on this issue, this case has kicked of a debate in India. The, British and American laws forbid surrogate mothers to charge a childless couple, where as in India there is no such law. It raises the question whether surrogate mothers should be allowed to charge a fee. The opinion seems to be building for having relevant laws in this matter that should not only protect the surrogate mothers, but also check the foreigners who come to India looking for renting wombs. Well when such law may come into existence it’s only a matter of guess.
The other interesting story is about adoption racket that was exposed some three years back in Chennai and now again doing rounds as interest peaked in this case when Time magazine published a report that at least 30 children brought to Australia from India were victims of human trafficking.
A CBI investigation in 2005 had found that many of the children adopted by foreign couples from the Tamil Nadu were kidnapped and sold to adoption agencies by gangs anywhere between 500 and 10,000 rupees. One such adoption agency, Malaysian Social Service in Chennai, was believed to have sent 120 children for adoption to affluent childless families’ world over and had received money as donation from them.
When in Queensland, Australia, a couple who had adopted a five-year-old boy and a three-year-old girl from Chennai in 1998 heard of this racket, it conducted a personal investigation into the background of the children and traced the biological mother of one of them. The couple requested the Queensland government to conduct a thorough probe into this matter and help connect with the biological parents of the children. The Queensland government started communication in this matter and this has made the CBI to send a request to interview the foster parents of the child.
The renewed interest in adoption story has led to many tongues wagging; how these adoption agencies could send children to foreign countries even as government guidelines mandate a preference for in-country adoptions? Why for an ordinary Indian couple adoption is a cumbersome process, where as for foreigners it’s just a price tag? Given the complex human issues in such cases it remains to be seen whether these children could ever be repatriated to India.
There is no denying the fact that cyber crime is on rise and India cannot remain immune to this. An interesting story came to light recently in Chennai when a girl lodged a complaint with the cyber crime cell, after she was bombarded with calls on her mobile phone from strangers asking for sexual favours. Apparently, this girl's photograph and phone number was put up on a networking site describing her as service girl.
The cyber crime cell got active and in no time picked up a manager of a private firm who admitted his crime. The victim and offender were onetime friends but had fallen apart. They cyber cell issued a stern warning to such offenders that if they believe t they can remain anonymous in cyberspace, they are wrong, their crime in can easily get detected and they can be caught in no time.
The cyber crime cell said that instances of misuse of photographs of women are on the rise on the Internet and it receives at least two such complaints every month and the Sometimes photographs are morphed and used with obscene content, at times even genuine photographs are used for that. The cyber cell has advised the public, especially girls against sharing of photographs, even among best friends.
All these three tales of India carries a message of its own. While surrogacy is complex human call, it’s a crime to allow it to grow into a business proposition. There is need for clear law on such issues and this practice should be strongly discouraged. Similarly, the issue of adoption has to treated with a great deal of sincerity and the childless Indian couples who wish to go for adoption should be encouraged and there should not be any procedural hindrance for that. However, the foreign couple who come for such purposes should be allowed to proceed in this matter only through proper channels. As far as cyber crime concerned it is something that has come to stay with us. The use of cyberspace is a boon to mankind and its benefits far exceeds to its perils. A great deal of social disciplining and effective surveillance can keep this in check.
Well these tales from India is an effort to construct a better picture of India and a sequel to my earlier write-up ‘Sex, Kidney and More.’ Please check: http://mujtabas-musings.blogspot.com/2008/02/tales-from-india-sex-kidney-and-more.html
By Syed Ali Mujtaba
The author is a working journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dipto Shanker SenguptaOctober 14, 2008 at 12:00 AM