COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc across the globe. Millions of people died from the virus, leaving behind their loved ones grieving. But the biggest toll was on children, who were orphaned after losing one or both their parents. With no where to go, these children had no option but live at the mercy of NGOs in hopes of being adopted. But some individuals used shady NGOs as a front to indulge in illegal adoption, selling these COVID orphans to the highest bidder.

India Today conducted a sting operation, exposing this shocking adoption racket across India. According to a Lancet study, over 1 lakh children lost a parent during the pandemic in India. Taking advantage of the situation, some individuals started selling COVID orphans to whoever can pay.

Children at risk
This is a representational imageIBT - Sami Khan

BUSTED: Illegal adoption racket in India

The sting-op caught three persons working for various NGOs in different cities across India in the act. One Asrar Amin, who ran an NGO in Kashmir under the name Global Welfare Charitable Trust, was caught on camera offering COVID orphans at the price of Rs 75,000 per child. The undercover persons were asking various questions to understand the operation thoroughly, which exposed the shocking nature of the illegal adoption racket.

At one point, Amin said paperwork won't be necessary and no problem would arise in the future. He could even be heard saying "Kashmiri children are really beautiful" and that he had many under his care. In a poor attempt to cover up the bribe, he said the money is for the trust he is running.

Child Trafficking

Another individual, Mannan Ansari, who manages a placement agency in Delhi, admitted being a baby broker and claimed there was a six-month-old fatherless child for adoption and it would cost Rs 5 lakh.

The sting-op also exposed a shocking case of abduction of newborns. Aijaz Amhad Dar of Noble Foundation non-profit said that he would involve hospital doctors to steal orphaned newborns. "Suppose there's a newborn. We'll get that baby lifted right away," he was heard saying.

"We'll take some gynaecologists, some MD (qualified doctor), whom I know, in confidence. We'll ask them how much money they would want if there's a death," Dar said. "We'll talk to them to give us any orphan who has lost his/her mother. We'll tell them not to send the baby to any orphanage but give it to us. We'll update. God willing, we'll have a child whose parent died from Covid," he said when probed further.

Dar demanded Rs 10 lakh for a child and also claimed to have at least 500-600 aged between 8 and 10 years in his network.

The adoption of a child in India is a scrutinized process, which sets the criteria for adopting parents. According to government data, only 3,000 to 5,000 children are officially adopted in India every year. In contrast, the adoption number in the US is up to 1.35 lakh annually.