exposing the dark side of adoption
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Pune agency violates adoption laws


VK Shashikumar / CNN-IBN

Pune: Arun Dohle is a German who was born to Indian parents. In 1973, Arun's adoptive parents walked into Mahila Sewagram Ashram in Pune, adopted him, and returned to Germany.

"I am not against adoption or inter-country adoption. I am against the way it is done," he says.

Arun believes that the basic premise behind adoption in places like Mahila Sewagram Ashram is wrong. "Parents think they are adopting orphans and not children who've been taken from parents," he says.

Now, 33 years later, he is angry and trying to make sense of it all. "Once you realise that you are nothing else but a chicken which can be moved like a commodity, it's just bad," he resents.

Way back in 1973, India did not have an adoption law.

However, even today, with stringent adoption laws in place, nothing much seems to have changed.

CNN-IBN's Special Investigation Team (SIT) found this out when they walked into Pune-based adoption agency, Preet Mandir.

Here, $12,000 was all that it takes to subvert all adoption laws enacted since 1973.

A few months into the investigation, CNN-IBN's SIT spotted a curious pattern - Preet Mandir regularly turned away many Indian parents for no reason at all.

For the Khonas, parents of two adopted children, Preet Mandir is a trauma they would rather forget.

"The owner, J S Bhasin, said that the boy had been given to someone from Jallandar. Some foreigners were taking the baby though and I accidently saw it," says Sharad Khona, an adoptive parent.

"I cried that entire day and I didn't talk to anyone," says his wife, Rajshree.

"Bhasin had a list. He knew exactly how many boys and girls he would get and when. It's big business for him," says Sharad.

All this despite the fact that adoption agencies in India are bound by law to promote adoptions within the country.

"Fifty per cent of Indian adoptions are mandatory," says Chairperson of Adoption Co-ordinating Agencies (ACA) Pune, Nishita Shah.

But the Pune government records reveal that compared to the 50 per cent norm, Preet Mandir sends 68 per cent of the children in their care outside India.

Clearly, Preet Mandir always has the cradle full for foreign parents.

"I needed somebody to say that we could give me a baby in a week. And the man I spoke to asked me, 'What would you like - a boy or a girl?' And I told him that we just want a baby. But he said, 'madam we have both, which do you want?' I was very surprised to hear it was that easy. That I literally had to ring up with my specifications," says Janet (name changed), a freelance writer, who adopted a child from Preet Mandir.

CNN-IBN's investigation revealed a clever manipulation.

Preet Mandir was regularly forging documents of some children to show that they were not finding homes in India, thereby making them available for sale to foreign families.

"These non-acceptance letters are bogus. They are just making them up because the law requires three non-acceptance letters. And some of these placement agencies have a tie-up with adoption agencies abroad," says Nishita Shah.

"The placement agencies say that I have X amount of money every year to support various programmes of yours and you will give so many children every year to our families," she explains.

CNN-IBN's team even found proof of this malpractice when the Children House International, an American adoption agency proudly announced "complete sponsorship" of the Mata Vaishno Devi Trust, an adoption agency in Pune.

"I am shocked. I think this fraud needs to be exposed. People have to know the ugly side of this adoption business," says Arun.

Some adoption agencies have mastered the fine art of breaking the law and still being on its right side.

This includes agencies like Preet Mandir, which had its licence revoked six years ago.

However, J S Bhasin's clout ensured he was back in business within two months time, free to run one of India's biggest baby shop.

(With inputs from Anjita Roychoudhary)

2006 Jun 20