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Poverty, struggle for dignity in survival -

nabadip - Sun, 15 May 2005 17:19:16 +0530
Woman sells son for 25 paise

Saugar Sengupta / Kolkata

The Government has turned Bengal into a State of 'have-nots' where emotions are peddled for a penny. Thanks to a thriving parallel market where hunger sells for a premium a disfavored mother puts her dearer-to-life son up for a sale and disposes him off for the price of peanuts. If only a peanut could be had for 25 paise!

Cut to this ancient capital town of Bengal. Unable to bear the roasting poverty Meera Mandal, a local woman, has sold off her one-and-a-half-year old son to a neighbour for that tossed up 25 paise coin. The deal is more symbolic than anything else "we were unable to take care of him anymore," she suggests.

Meera is a domestic help and manages a paltry sum of Rs 400 per month. Apparently, with two daughters, a son and a perennially sick husband Meera's summer seems more scorching than her neighbours'. Wonders Meera a resident of Vidhan Nagar failing to comprehend why the administration would snatch her right to give her son a better livelihood: "I have no money to rear him up. His father has leprosy and so do I. Earlier he was a rickshaw-puller and earned some money. But now he is completely bedridden and we find it extremely difficult to even fetch his medicine."

She fails to understand what crime she has committed, as "I have not sold him for any greed. I just want him to grow up well. Initially, I wanted to sell one of my daughters but the buyers insisted for the son as they already have two daughters." "I have to spend Rs 100 at least to buy his milk. Now that will take care of a whole month's rice to fetch us a single meal for 15 days," she reasons.

Meera lives in a small thatched enclosure with her husband Sukumar who was the sole breadwinner for the family. But after he was struck by leprosy Meera had to go out working. "I can manage on Rs 400 after working in 3-4 houses.

But that's not enough to take care of the family. I can't even buy medicine and milk for my son," she says. Holds forth Ms Swapna Ghosh the buyer who lives nearby: "I don't have a son and so I bought him on a condition that I will take care of him as his own mother." "Even Yashoda was a surrogate mother and if she can adopt a child why can't I?" she questions. "The sale was only a symbolic gesture and there was no real intention to do business," she vouches.

According to reports, despite being at the receiving end of the growth-based economic pattern, the Mandals were not provided with a BPL (Below Poverty Line) card, which is anyway the prerogative of the ruling party men across the State. "They ask for cash to get a BPL card," alleges a neighbour who fortunately doesn't have either a son or a sick husband, alleging only the workers of the Laal Party (read CPI-M) can get these cards. Meanwhile, District Magistrate Abhijit Chowdhury said he had come across reports that Mandals had no BPL cards and assured to remain cautious that such incidents did not recur.

"I am at a loss to understand why such a thing should take place. I will take immediate steps against the erring officials," he assured.

However, the baby has now been restored to the original mother.