New Delhi: The alarming number of abandoned children and their pitiable condition has led the Supreme Court to question the Central government on its role in arresting the enormous problem.

The Supreme Court on Thursday sought the Union government's response on a PIL alleging trafficking of children to foreign countries in the name of adoption and the plight of prospective Indian adoptive parents.

A bench of Chief Justice S H Kapadia and Justices K S Radhakrishnan and Swatanter Kumar also sought a reply from the Central Adoption Resource Agency (CARA) on the petition filed by a group of NGOs claiming to be engaged in rehabilitation of children.

It was alleged Indian families seeking to adopt are left languishing as they wait for months to be given an adoptable child whereas lure of foreign money ensures that more children are sought to be given to foreign parents than to their Indian counterparts, which is contrary to the norm.

The petition urged the Apex Court to direct the Centre to set up an independent agency to streamline the process of adoption in the country.

"Many children are left without the protection of a loving home and grow up in severe conditions which take a physical and emotional toll on them," the petition said.

The PIL filed was filed by counsel Gopal Sankaranarayanan and Kirti Ratnam on behalf of NGOs Ashraya, Basundra, Society For Indian Children's Welfare, VCA - Karnataka, Vathsalya Charitable Trust, CVARA.

The NGOs said there are several instances of abandoned children being literally sold from police stations and government-run 'Shishu Grehs' without any records maintained or any medical and security guidelines being followed.

It was alleged that CARA, which is supposed to be the nodal agency for regulating adoption in the country, does not even possess the bare statistics about the number of abandoned, relinquished and homeless children.

"The petitioners assert that adoptable and abandoned children have a right to life under Article 21, which includes the right to live and develop within a warm and loving family.

"The conduct of the Shishu Grehs in allowing unregulated adoptions to take place has led to children being adopted by individuals with doubtful credentials, who then exploit the children for their personal gain, which is in complete contravention of Articles 23 and 24 of the Constitution.

"Sometimes, desperate couples are given critically ill babies who die after 'adoption', which takes a tragic emotional toll on such couples," the petition said.
   
Quoting official data for 2005-2006, the petition said there were over 35 million children in need of care and protection and only a paltry 3000 adoptions take place each year in India (counting both domestic and inter-country placements).

The official adoptions in 2007-2008 were only 3,264 while millions of other children remained in sub-standard institutional care or were unaccounted for, the petition claimed.

"The stagnation of adoption over the last 5 years and the increasing number of homeless children in India is a clear proof of the fact that CARA is wholly incapable of discharging its functions and that it is unable to regulate this very essential sector," the petition said.

Hence, it urged the Apex Court to direct the setting up of an independent body of childcare experts, psychologists, physicians, lawyers, sociologists and planners to review the entire adoption regime in India, vis-a-vis status and functioning of CARA.

(Agencies)

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