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Article 21– Right to live with dignity

The problem is complex and challenging. I do not have a complete solution to resolve this, but I would like to start by taking small efforts to improve awareness with respect to CCIs and cradle points.

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No person shall be deprived of his right to life or personal liberty. There are many stages in our life which change the direction of our living. Becoming a parent is such an important turning point in our lives. Parenthood changes both the way we live and the way we think. When our daughter came into our lives, my wife and my life began to take a turn for the better. When we adopted her, she was only four months old. When we decided to adopt a child, we registered with CARA (Central Adoption Resource Authority-Nodal Agency for Adoption in India) as per law.

After two and a half years of waiting, we were informed that we were having a baby girl. We immediately completed all legal procedures. Our daughter is extremely happy and energetic, but she was abandoned in the forest by her biological parents. There she was bitten by ants and insects and also got bacterial infections. She was saved due to the alertness of the ‘Emergency Service Ambulance’ and its crew. However the treating doctors suspected that she might have kidney disease in future and our anxiety grew further.

How could such a small baby bear such severe pain was disturbing. Fortunately our daughter is healthy and has no illness. The reason for deliberately giving this personal experience is to draw everyone’s attention to the issue of orphaned or abandoned children.

It is estimated that there are 3 crore orphans and abandoned children in India, out of which not even 5 lakh make it to institutionalized care and 3000-4000 get adopted every year. More than 1.5 lakh children were orphaned by Covid-19. There are more than 26,000 prospective parents who are waiting for referrals while the number of children legally free for adoption is very less. Moreover, there are almost 2.6 lakh children living in 7000 child care institutions (CCIs) in the country. In India, if there is no family to take care of an orphaned child or a child has been abandoned, the government steps in.

Only abandoned children, who cannot be cared for by extended family, can be adopted by strangers. This is a paradoxical situation where on one hand there are a large number of parents willing to adopt a child, on the other, there are not many children available for adoption or living in CCIs, and a large number are further abandoned or orphaned.

It is even alarming to know that 9 out of 10 abandoned children were girls. When any child gets abandoned (a majority immediately after birth), they are thrown in an inhumane manner – trash, garbage, bushes, waste bins, roadside, etc. The newborns who were thrown away were barely covered. They are exposed to extreme temperatures, rains, insect bites, injuries etc. This impacts their overall health and wellbeing until they receive help. Many children died in the past due to lack of help or support. This is an act violation of the fundamental right to live with human dignity under Article 21 in the Indian Constitution.

The CCIs are authorized to accept these children, and have placed cradles, cribs, baby hatches etc. so that people can safely put the child there. However, it is very sad that people do not keep their children in such a safe environment. There are possible reasons like there could be no awareness of cradle points, CCTV around, somebody would see them, fear of getting caught by police etc. and hence they prefer the inhuman way rather than volunteering safe handing over.

The problem is complex and challenging. I do not have a complete solution to resolve this, but I would like to start by taking small efforts to improve awareness with respect to CCIs and cradle points. If people at least know where they are, there is an increased probability of the unwanted child reaching the desired CCI rather than being disposed of in inhumane ways. Hence it is important to make cradle signage mandatory for hospitals, adoption agencies, orphanages, foster care homes, children daycares etc. This signage is similar to the signage of a hospital or pharmacy store which is visible from a distance 24/7 and 365 days. It should be promoted actively by the government machinery so that even if people want to abandon their kids they drop them at least to a place where they could receive basic primary care.

Moreover such incidents are mainly found on highways, roadways, forest areas outside city limits etc. I also think that a cradle sign should also be included as part of Road Safety Information Signs. This sign is similar to a petrol bunk, food court or even toilet facility indicating the proximity or distance and direction to the same. There is urgency for both Women & Child Development and Road Transportation and Highway ministries and their internal departments to work on making cradle signage mandatory and implement it across India. I have communicated these to concerned authorities in the government and they issued a notification mandating all CCIs and adoption agencies to install cradle and appropriate signage with immediate effect.

India is the first country globally to make cradle signage mandatory. Apart from these, it is also important to review “The Cradle Baby Scheme” of the Tamil Nadu Government for nationwide implementation which has provision for volunteering and handing over to government agencies. Govt. can also offer some relaxation or benefits to the abandoning families to encourage use of cradles. They should do counselling to avoid abandoning, ensure privacy if they come forward, give financial support if they are unable to financially care for the child etc. The counselling can be mandated for families if doctors know that the family has girls in previous childbirths.

I have taken small step to secure the future of our children. Your suggestion will help me in strengthening this further.

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