A nun and another employee at a Mother Theresa charity home in the Indian state of Jharkhand have been arrested for alleged child trafficking.
An investigation by the Indian Child Welfare Committee (CWC) revealed that at least two people at the Nirmal Hriday (Pure Hearts) home in the state capital of Ranchi were involved in taking babies from unmarried mothers and selling them.
The investigation was launched after a couple approached the CWC saying they had paid $1,700 to one of the home’s employees for a baby boy. They complained she had taken back the baby and kept their money.
“We investigated and it seems that four children were sold off,” said Shyamanand Mandal, a police inspector in Kotwali district. “Local people are also involved in this.”
The home, run by Missionaries of Charity, the religious order founded by Mother Teresa, gives shelter to unmarried pregnant women.
The CWC, which had previously suspected irregularity at the home, informed the local police station, CWC official Kaushal Kishore said.
Police have registered a case of child trafficking against the two suspects. They recovered a three-month-old baby, who is currently in CWC’s custody.
Authorities have traced the trafficking operation back to 2015, but are investigating if it began earlier, said Mandal.
Missionaries of Charity spokeswoman Sunita Kumar said the incident was “unbelievable and … completely shocking”.
“We can’t believe it. We will see that it does not happen again,” she said. “Mother (Teresa) did not want to diversify to start making money.”
Kumar said the crime was “totally against” the orders’ convictions. “It can’t have happened, it shouldn’t have happened,” she added.
Mother Teresa, who died in 1997, set up hospices, leper colonies, orphanages and centers for unmarried pregnant women.
However, in 2015 Missionaries of Charity stopped arranging adoptions, saying it disagreed with government rules making it easier for single, divorced and separated people to adopt.