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The killing fields of Warangal: In these hamlets, word-of-mouth drives

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The Times Of India
14th July, 2019 08:53 IST

WARANGAL RURAL: It’s a curse they live with. The girl child in Warangal Rural — where only 870 females are born per 1,000 males — is so unwanted that selling her is an accepted norm here, if a tribal woman fails to abort the foetus. Apart from selling the baby girl, infanticide is also a harsh reality in this part of the world — largely made of thandas and inhabited by Lambadas.

When STOI visited some of the thandas deep inside the jungles, tribals said that people were ready to travel by cars and offer good amounts. “Once the deal is struck and an amount is fixed, we give away the baby. This is common here,” says Baji Jatoth. Who are the buyers? “They come from nearby hospitals,” she says nonchalantly.

This practice of selling the girl child has been there for several decades, say officials. Does this mean it’s a well-knitted network of buyers and seller families? “It is not a racket or a network but word of mouth that ensures a smooth sale. Usually, families who might have bought a baby previously bring childless couples within their circles to adopt newborns,” says an official of district child protection authority.

Shockingly, only eight cases of illegal adoption have been booked in the district since October 2016. Although the authorities admit to knowing about the sale of babies, no proof of exchange of money has been found. “In four of the cases, the biological parents were convinced to take back the girl child. In the other four, the newborns were placed at the government facility while the parents who adopted them have been counselled to apply for adoption legally,” says Gade Mahender Reddy , district child protection officer.

He says there is a dire need to create awareness among tribals so that they can legally adopt the girl children. “Most families cannot afford to marry off a second or third girl child due to dowry. So, aborting a girl child or selling her has become routine,” Dr NC Satyaraj, health extension officer of Sangem mandal, says.

How do the tribals manage this though they know full well it is a crime? “The villagers are good at concealing these incidents. Even cops have no clue on what is happening in their homes,” Satyaraj claims.

District health authorities have been found wanting in curbing this scourge. There was just one raid in the last eight months to ascertain if illegal sex determination tests were done. “The raid did not yield any result,” says district medical and health officer Madhusudan. “It’s a task to communicate to the tribal communities on the gravity of the crime. They turn aggressive when we try to touch on the subject of abortions,” he says

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