• Police in India arrested 16 people involved in a child trafficking scheme
  • The members kidnapped babies and young children and sold them to childless couples
  • Six kids were rescued during the operation, including some who had already been sold

Authorities in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh have arrested members of a child trafficking group responsible for abducting and selling newborns to childless couples, officials said Monday.

Police arrested 16 people and rescued six kidnapped children during an overnight operation conducted in the city of Aligarh and its surrounding areas Sunday, local outlet NDTV reported, citing officials. The operation had been a part of a special anti-human trafficking initiative codenamed "Operation Khushi," which references a local feminine name that means happiness or joy.

Three people allegedly intending to kidnap an infant that night were initially arrested near a crossing at the village of Borna after police acted on a tip-off, Senior Superintendent of Police Kalanidhi Naithani said.

The three — identified by The Times of India as Duryodhan, Anil and Shubham — then told police that four kidnapped children were being held in a house in Ganga Nagar, the officer said.

"When they were interrogated, they spilled the beans on their child lifting operation," Naithani said.

According to police, the disclosed location was raided, and the children were rescued. Two more children at another house in an area that fell under the jurisdiction of the Delhi Gate police station were rescued from the gang.

The 16 arrested individuals consisted of eight gang members as well as eight people who either acted as mediators or bought kids, The Times of India reported.

The gang would identify childless couples and promise them a baby, who ends up being a newborn they would kidnap and sell, according to the outlet. The prices for the children ranged from Rs 45,000 ($600) and Rs 5 lakh ($6,700), police said.

Each member of the gang had their own specific role in the criminal operation, Aligarh police superintendent Kuldeep Gunawat told The Times of India.

According to police, the five women in the gang — identified as Babli, Chandhi, Rekha, Neha and Rashmi — would look for couples who wanted a child. The gang would then strike a deal with the couple and promise a child of whichever gender they preferred in exchange for monetary compensation.

Afterward, the gang would contact their network of midwives and be provided with information regarding expecting mothers whose children could be kidnapped and sold.

The three men would then kidnap the newborn and hold them in their homes. The women would hand over the child to their new parents, take the money and close the deal.

The rescued children have been handed over to their families, and further legal proceedings against the gang members are underway.

The group of rescued children included a 2-month-old girl, a 9-month-old boy from Ghaziabad and three kids from Aligarh who were younger than 2, Naithani said.

The last child, a boy, has yet to be traced, but he was allegedly kidnapped in 2020 and sold to a couple in Mumbai through a contact in Noida.

The police teams that carried out the rescue operation — under the supervision of police superintendent Kuldeep Singh Gunawat — have been rewarded.

agree-1238964_1920 Representation. The gang would allegedly strike a deal with a childless couple and promised them a child with their preferred gender. Photo: Pixabay