New Delhi/ Pune: Preet Mandir, an adoption agency in Pune, is the front for a child trafficking racket. A CNN-IBN Special Investigation exposed Preet Mandir and its owner J S Bhasin last year but it is still in business because India’s adoption watchdog has turned a blind eye.
After CNN-IBN’s investigation in June 2006, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) was asked to investigate Preet Mandir. The CBI says it took the testimonies of unwed mothers who said they willingly handed over their babies for adoption. But one such mother says the CBI never questioned her.
“No one from the CBI approached me. I didn't give up my child and the adoption agency asked me to sign a paper,” says the woman, who didn’t want her name to be revealed.
The Maharashtra government in July 2006 first recommended that Preet Mandir's foreign adoption license be suspended because it had not documented donations it took from foreign couples. But in October the Maharashtra Women and Child Welfare Department did a U-turn and said it hadn’t found evidence of child trafficking, or sale of children outside the adoption process.
A home for unwed mothers in Talegaon, which was Preet Mandir's source for cheap babies to sell abroad, was first given a clean chit and later commended for its welfare work.
At no point did the CBI or the Maharashtra Government or Central Adoption Resource Agency (CARA), the regulatory authority for adoptions in the country, ask CNN-IBN for documents that proved adoption agencies’ involvement in child trafficking.
CARA had a vested interested in absolving Preet Mandir and returning its foreign adoption licence. CARA chairperson J K Mittal stayed in Pune’s Aurora Towers hotel for two days in June 2007 and got a bill of Rs 16,000. Guess who paid the bill? Preet Mandir’s owner Bhasin did.
Mittal told CNN-IBN he had paid for the bill and gave us a copy of a bill which says he paid Rs 11,000 for the hotel stay. But CNN-IBN has found that the bill of Rs 11,000 is the record of a discount given by the hotel on the original Rs 16,000-bill, which was settled by Preet Mandir through a credit card account.
The cover-up was completed in January 2007 when Dr Jagannath Pati of CARA visited Preet Mandir and absolved it of allegations that it was stealing babies from their parents and selling them to foreign couples.
Just ahead of an international conference in October 2007, CARA published in newspapers a list of recognised adoption agencies in the county. But strangely, Preet Mandir is listed as an active adoption agency in CARA booklets meant for internal circulation.
Preet Mandir got a clean chit and the permission to continue managing Shishu Sadan, a government-owned adoption home in Aurangabad. Preet Mandir was licensed to place children for adoption within India but used Shishu Sadan as a source for children to traffic abroad. Shishu Sadan officials though deny links with Preet Mandir.
Dr Sengupta, who is in charge of Shishu Sadan, claimed they were not a branch of Preet Mandir. Shishusadan's certificate of recognition doesn’t mention the institute’s license number or the date it was given a licence. “I don’t have to show you or explain things,” said Dr Sengupta.
The Women and Child Department in Pune attribute the blanks to a clerical error.