Surrogacy as cover for trading in babies

National

The uncovering of what appears to be baby trading has blurred the line between such rackets and surrogacy, amid signs that the woman not only sold off at least one child but has also struck a deal for one she is expecting.

Manjula, or Mona Thakor, admits she was paid for a baby by a Ahmedabad gynaecologist who routed it to a couple. The crime branch has found she is pregnant once again and has registered with another doctor to deliver the baby as a surrogate.

The police case is against gynaecologist Bharat Atit, nurse Niru Rathi and Thakor's boyfriend Rajkumar Jadav. It is not yet clear whether the baby's father is Rajkumar or the woman's former husband, with whom she had renewed her relationship.

"We have found out now that the woman had signed a form with Dr Atit in 2010, too, to mother a surrogate baby. She is a professional surrogate and is believed to be working with another doctor at present," crime branch chief Arun Sharma said. "But this baby (the one involved in the case under under investigation) was sold off illegally by Dr Atit." Atit's wife Malini, incidentally, is a former Ahmedabad mayor.

Indian laws on surrogacy allow a healthy woman to voluntarily carry a baby for another couple, which she can conceive directly through the father or through IVF. Surrogacy is illegal when the same process is carried out in the absence of a legal agreement. It is also open to exploitation by frauds a baby fathered by a fourth person can be passed off as a product of surrogacy.

The immediate instance of suspected baby trading was, ironically, unearthed in investigations into a rape complaint. "The woman wanted to trap her boyfriend because he was seeing another woman. The surrogacy racket was unearthed after this," crime branch chief Sharma said.

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