New Delhi: Newborns left abandoned could have a better future if they are "surrendered" to child welfare committees, officials and child right activists say, referring to the rising number of baby abandonment cases.
Public, they feel, are unaware of a provision in law which allows people to surrender babies if the biological parents cannot raise their child due to any reasons.
The act covers unwed mothers as well and guarantees to maintain the secrecy of the individual surrendering the baby.
Activists contend why should children be dumped in garbage bins if the parents have have already decided to part with their child.
"Why not surrender them to Child Welfare Committee (CWC) so that the child will be properly taken care of," they ask.
At least 18 children were surrendered with the Child Welfare Committee in West Delhi in the past three years. "We have received 18 surrendered children in past three years. The maximum applications for surrendering that we get are from unwed mothers.
"We do consider these cases but in case the mother is a minor girl, we accept the baby with her parent`s written consent," Neera Mullick, Chairman of CWC in West Delhi`s Jail Road, told.
Mullick said they need to be very careful in examining the cases. "Their have been few incidents when the parents were well versed to raise the baby but due to their personal differences they did not want to raise them. The investigation on CWC`s part plays a very crucial role." she said.
Susma Vij, Chairperson of CWC in east Delhi`s Mayur Vihar, said on an average they receive 3-4 requests every six months for surrendering children.
"We take a minimum three months to register a surrendered baby. We focus more on the counselling part because at times it may happen that parents choose to surrender their baby due to any momentary circumstances and might regret it later. Once a surrendered baby is adopted by someone it can`t be returned except in rare cases," she said.
Dr Naveen Pathak, Director of SOS Children`s Village, said that they have received 29 surrendered children in five years from six Child Welfare Committees operating in the capital.
"We do have legal and more human alternates to child abandonment but people do not know about these provisions," he said.
As per the surrender clause of the Juvenile Justice (Amendment) Act 2006, when somebody approaches CWC for surrendering a baby after a counselling session, they are registered and are given a time period of 60 days for the reconsideration of their decision.
Then after this, if the parents are convinced to surrender their baby, the CWC takes the custody of the baby and hence the baby is available for adoption. Till the baby is adopted, the baby is taken care by any of the NGO registered with CWC.
"The concept of surrendering babies is not very popular despite the availability of legal provisions. We have been promoting it as a solution to the cases of child trafficking but it serves as a better, legal and humane alternate to child abandonment," Kamla Lekhwani, Chairperson of CWC in Outer Delhi`s Rohini.
Activists say the reason cited by parents to surrender child range from desertion or death of one spouse to inability to take care of the child to a child with medical problems or some kind of disability.
"We have been struggling with the approximately same statistics every year, its only continuous media coverage which is making the society aware of the frequency of such cases this time" Bhuvan Ribhu of Bachpan Bachao Andolan said.
On the trends in abandonment of babies, Ribhu said there is no data on people who abandon babies, but in majority of the cases, the parents belong to middle and lower middle class families.
Increasing cases of broken marriages and rapes result in higher number of abandoned children every passing year, he said.