KOLKATA, 7 MARCH: Child traffickers are targeting city government hospitals that lack adequate security and where the “crowd is unmanageable”. Worse still, the hospital authorities throw their hands up blaming the crowd and the unwanted people who make such hospitals their den. The six-year-old daughter of a street vendor, Rubi Khatoon (name changed), was abducted from the Calcutta Medical College and Hospital on 1 March, when her mother took her to the hospital to get her admitted. She was suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis.
Rubi’s two-year-old sister, her aunt and five-year-old cousin also accompanied her mother. On the way to Calcutta Medical College and Hospital an unknown person, along with a burkha-clad woman, tried to befriend them and offered the three children sweets and candies.
Rubi’s mother said: “The couple seemed harmless. We thought they just wanted to play with the children. It was very crowded in the hospital and we told the children to hold each other’s hands and not to move while we filled the forms at the counter.”
When they turned back, they noticed Rubi was missing. Rubi’s mother lodged a missing persons diary with the Bowbazaar police station. Later, Rubi’s cousin told her mother that Rubi had accepted sweets from the burkha-clad woman and had gone with her after eating the sweets.
On 2 March, Rubi’s parents asked Children International-Sahay, an NGO that sponsored the child’s education, to help them. Members of the NGO accompanied the family who lodged an FIR at the Bowbazaar police station. A case was also registered with Childline.
On 4 March, the girl was found crying on platform number one at Sealdah station. Locals took her to the Muchipara police station who handed her over to her family. Though she did not suffer physical harm, the child is so traumatised that she is unable to speak.
Mr Anindya Sinha, member of the Child Welfare Committee in Kolkata, said that such a case where a child was abducted from a government hospital is not rare.
“We come to know of several such cases. The committee had recently served a show-cause notice to a medical superintendent and vice-principal of a government medical college in the city in this connection,” he added.
Mr Siddhartha Chakraborty, medical superintendent of CMCH, said that though police and security staff remain alert, the crowd of 20,000 people in the hospital makes it impossible to keep a watch on each and every child that enters the hospital.
Often outsiders sit on the hospital premises and play cards. The CR Avenue footpath bordering CMCH is ridden with drug-addicts.