NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India has instructed all its state governments to conduct an immediate inspection of all childcare homes run by the Missionaries of Charity, a Roman Catholic order founded by the late Mother Teresa, amid concerns over baby trafficking.
Earlier this month authorities shut down a home run by the order in eastern Jharkhand state that provides shelter for pregnant, unmarried women after a nun and a worker there were arrested for baby trafficking.
Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi said in a statement on Monday she had also instructed states to ensure that all childcare institutions be registered and linked to the federal adoption authority within the next one month.
“Taking cognizance of the recent cases of illegal adoptions carried out by Missionaries of Charity in Jharkhand, Maneka Gandhi has instructed the states to get childcare homes run by Missionaries of Charity all over the country inspected immediately,” the ministry said in the statement.
Missionaries of Charity spokeswoman Sunita Kumar could not provide an immediate comment to Reuters.
There has been a number of reports of babies and children being trafficked through charity-run homes and hospitals in India, which campaigners say is driven by a long waiting list for adoption.
The Missionaries of Charity stopped organising adoptions in India in 2015 saying they disagreed with government rules that made it easier for single, divorced, and separated people to adopt children.
The ministry said under the Juvenile Justice Act which came into effect more than two years ago it was mandatory for every shelter home dealing with children and their adoption to register and also link the organisation to the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA).
However, about 4,000 institutions are yet to be linked, the ministry said.
The chairwoman of Jharkhand State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, Arti Kujur, said the state had formed teams to inspect all its shelter homes and hoped to receive their reports in early August.
“If we find any one operating such homes illegally, strong action will be taken,” Kujur told Reuters.
Separately, Kujur said all four infants sold by the nun and the worker arrested this month had been recovered by the authority.
Writing by Malini Menon; Editing by Gareth Jones