The mother of a 10-month-old baby in India has been arrested for selling her child to another woman for $1,147. Police said she took the decision due to extreme poverty.

The mother, 30-year-old Vijayalakshmi, and her husband, 35-year-old Chinndurai, decided to sell their son because they were desperate for money, police said, Times Now News reported. Chinndurai, who worked as a driver in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, struggled to find work during the COVID-19 pandemic. Investigators said poverty drove the couple to sell their child, named Muthuraj.

The parents contacted 45-year-old Thangam, who agreed to pay them around $1,147 in exchange for the child. When the couple asked her for more money, Thangam refused, claiming the act was illegal and risky.

Thangam then allegedly sold the baby to a couple in the neighboring state of Andhra Pradesh, reported the Times of India. The couple – Navaneetham, 64, and Pandurangan –paid her around $4,050 for the baby.

Meanwhile, Vijayalakshmi and Chinndurai's neighbors grew suspicious when they no longer saw the baby in their house. The couple told them Muthuraj was with his grandmother, but the neighbors found this hard to believe.

The incident came to light in November last year after police began an investigation based on a complaint from Lalitha, a child welfare official. They arrested Vijayalakshmi, Thangam and Navaneetham on Wednesday. Officers are still on the lookout for another person who they believe is part of the baby-selling racket.

The baby was placed in the care of child welfare officials.

Vijayalakshmi reportedly demanded to have her baby back Tuesday, claiming that she was forced to sell Muthuraj because her current partner did not want the child. She told investigators that she and her husband have separated.

Cops are trying to find out whether Thangam brokered other deals that involved the buying and selling of babies.

"Agents like this have contacts in fertility clinics, abortion centers and illegal delivery clinics. During interrogation, Thangam said they target girls from lower income families who might become pregnant due to informal relationships. Instead of going to the police to find the perpetrator, the agents convinced them sell the babies," the CWC official said.

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