Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Dalit Mom sells baby to feed family

New Delhi - An Indian woman sold her infant son for 6 000 rupees (R900) so that the rest of her family could eat, news reports said on Tuesday.

The two-and-a-half-month-old baby had not yet been named.

His mother Dhiran Devi recently saw her other son Manish, 2, die of a damaged liver caused by malnutrition, a Hindu newspaper reported.

Her only surviving child is a seven-year-old daughter who doesn't go to school.

Most of the money from the sale of the child was meant to clear the family's looming debt, buy food and maybe some medicine for her tuberculosis-afflicted husband, according to the Indian Express newspaper.

Devi's husband Lal Babu Paswan said he thrashed her for her "sin", and so did the neighbours. Devi is now missing.

The Paswans live in Hajipur in the northeastern Indian state of Bihar, among the country's most backward and lawless states.

Half of Bihar is affected by floods and the rest by drought, but in both cases tens of thousands of people are starving.

The Paswans are also dalits (broken people), who are at the bottom of India's insidious caste ladder.

Desperately poor, dalits are usually denied access to land ownership and compelled to work in degrading jobs such as bonded labour, sweeping and manual scavenging who clean toilets and remove dead animals.

Seven years ago, Paswan lost his municipal job and pulled a cycle rickshaw, earning 50 rupees a day.

Tuberculosis allows him now to work only one in three days.

The family didn't have access to the state government's schemes for free tuberculosis medication or food, which local officials said they would immediately rectify.

Two doctors have also volunteered to adopt the Paswans for a year.

Police promised to take no action against Devi and claimed they wanted to find her in order to get the baby boy back.

Source: News24.com, September 14, 2004

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