If we go by the statistics provided by the Central Adoption Resource Authority (Ministry of Women & Child Development, GOI), the dwindling adoption rate from 2010 to 2017 is evident. The number of in-country adoption in 2010 was 5693 and inter-country adoption was 628. However, that came down to 3210 and 578 respectively between 2016-2017. In fact, crime data released by the Indian government in August 2015 revealed that 40 percent of human trafficking cases in 2015 involved children being bought, sold and exploited as modern day slaves. 

There could be two different interpretation to the above-given statistics. One, the number of orphans have gone down, which could be a positive thing. Second, illegal or unregistered adoption process are on the rise, which paints a rather dark picture of the entire system. Indeed, news of illegal adoption in West Bengal, Karnataka, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh are not new to us. In fact, according to a report by the Times of India, the city of Hyderabad in Telangana has emerged as a major hub for illegal adoption. Incidentally, it has also been found that more than 1,000 children have been sold to buyers across the country every year. Police has confirmed that most of these children, aged upto five years, are being sourced from poor households, private nursing homes and Shishu Gruhas.

Modus operandi

A close network, an eye for clients and family backgrounds are certain things that agents are on the look out for. As per various media sources, these agents scout infertility clinics and hospitals for possible childless clients. They are also on the lookout for newly-born children and their unaware parents. However, it does not require much homework in certain cases.

For instance, if the children are born out of wedlock or belong to poor families, they are often sold off willingly. Private and government hospitals both have a role to play in the nexus. For instance, in a 2016 case in Karnataka, six hospital staff were charged with stealing babies and selling them to childless couples in an illegal adoption racket. A report by the Reuters said that all six were affiliated to five different private hospitals, but were part of a bigger, organised gang involved in trafficking children. They often targetted couples from poor families or those seeking abortion and often convinced them to deliver the child and then would steal them for selling. 

In other cases, they have been reported to have stolen babies from the streets in Bengaluru and sold them off for Rs 2 lakh in the city. The city of Bengaluru has become another hub for illegal buying and selling of babies. According to a 2010 report by the Times of India, childless couples have now found an easier way to get babies. All they do is to book their request with a hospital, which sells them an abandoned child for a price. For instance, a nursing home in Hanumanthnagar is said to have demanded Rs 20,000 from a registered agency to hand over an abandoned baby. But when the agency visited the hospital, they didn't seem to have any such child.

Another hospital in Udupi had kept 19 children for a year. But just a week after they were question, all of them vanished into thin air. On investigation, it was found that the hospital had hired an NGO to place the children for adoption.

While hospitals still have the risk of being investigated, small-time NGOs and families have ot easier. In a case that surfaced in 2015, a woman, a former vice sarpanch, Kamli from Telangana's Nalgonda district was arrested on charges of selling an 18-month old girl to a couple from Guntur. Such cases usually earn the limelight only on tip offs, but mostly fail to draw the attention of the authorities since they are conducted on a small-scale basis.

The price tag

It's simple. A boy is sold for more than a girl. If a boy baby is sold for Rs 2 lakh, the girl child will be priced at Rs 1 lakh. However, that is not all. Rates are also fixed, depending on the health of the child and the parents who are willing pay anywhere between Rs 3,000 and Rs 50,000, say sources in the Telangana State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (TSCPCR), while speaking to Times of India.

While that is one aspect of the child trafficking nexus, another worrying element is that if the child is stolen from its biological parent, it tends to be weak. So, to make it look healthy, the agents feed them with health supplements, which jeoperdises with their health.

What the authorities have done till now

Their hands are tied, owing to the non-inclusive, non-transparent regulations governing adoption process. Police says that there are no specific laws governing illegal adoption. While IPC Section 372 elaborates on sale of minors, it majorly deals with prostitution. However, in some cases of child trafficking, the culprits are booked under immoral trafficking Act. 

Moreover, lack of transparent adoption processes make the situation even worse. Foreign nationals have a tough time adopting children in India and so is the case internally. When the Karnataka Child Protection Commission started receiving  complaints against hospitals illegally selling babies, it, along with  the Adoption Coordination Agency (ACA), which had stopped receiving abandoned babies from hospitals, asked the government to book hospitals for trafficking of children if they are given off illegally, without following the procedures and legalities as per the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956.

The agencies also suggested that parents of foster families should also be booked for kidnapping in such cases, unless all the rules are followed. 

However, little seems to have been done till date. The adoption protocol remains as tedious and the law binding the procedures equally non-transparent. All that is required is a holistic approach to the entire issue, considering the well-being of the child and the foster parents. The regulations should involve regular checks on the background of the adoptive parents and their intent of adoption. In some cases, it has been found that even though the adoption was illegal, the parents take great care in bringing uo the child. In such cases, there should be alternative arrangements to make the procedure legal, if the authorities deem it fit.