Police in Punjab, northwestern India, have arrested three people in connection with the attempted sale of a newborn baby through the Facebook social media website.
According to reports in Indian media, when an infant boy was born in the Satyam Hospital in the city of Ludhiana, his 47-year-old maternal grandfather, Feroz Khan, abducted the baby (after telling his daughter, Noori, that the child was still-born).
The grandfather then reportedly sold the child for 45,000 Rupees (the equivalent of about $830) to a hospital nurse, who subsequently sold the baby for 300,000 Rupees ($5,500) to a lab assistant at the same facility named Gurpreet Singh.
Gurpreet Singh then placed the baby for sale on Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) – a friend of his in Delhi, a businessman, offered 800,000 Rupees (about $14,750). That man from Delhi reportedly arrived in Ludhiana, about 200 miles to the north, to pick up the baby.
But the plot unraveled after the infant’s mother suspected something was wrong when she became aware that her father was suddenly flush with cash. Noori then filed a police complaint against her father (the baby-snatcher). Police investigators were able to eventually find the infant, reunite it with its mother, and then arrest the grandfather.
The nurse and lab assistant are also under police custody, but the businessman from Delhi who offered to purchase the baby on Facebook remains a fugitive.
"We will be interrogating the businessman who paid the money to buy the baby," Satish Malhotra, a senior police officer in Ludhiana, told Agence France Presse.
According to NDTV, police said the grandfather Feroz Khan wanted to sell the infant because his daughter was divorced from her husband – and he wished to arrange a new marriage for her.
“So he thought he should get rid of the child of her daughter from her first husband by selling him off," Ludhiana Commissioner of Police Ishwar Singh told NDTV.
Under Indian laws, the three detainees now are looking at charges of kidnapping and could face up to seven years in prison.
Kidnapping gangs around India have been known to abduct children and sell them into prostitution or begging rings.
Data on the number of children kidnapped across India are difficult to accurately determine since some are runaways and others are taken by relatives as a result of family disputes.
India’s increasing wealth is also exacerbating the problem. The National newspaper reported that as India’s middle class grows, so does the incidence of kidnapping children for ransom.
India’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) estimated that some 60,000 children are reported missing every year in India and that more than two-thirds of them are never found.
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.