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Sheena Bora case: Questions loom over transfer of Rakesh Maria

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By Ridham Gambhir

374025-maria7Rakesh Maria, the cop credited with investigating the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case and getting Ajmal Kasab to confess his crime, has been abruptly transferred from the post of Mumbai Police Commissioner to that of the Director General (Home Guards).

It was Maria, a report dated June 24 in Hindustan Times claimed, who held actor Sanjay Dutt by his hair and “toppled him from the chair, leading him to finally confess his association with the underworld elements involved in the 1993 blasts and his possession of an AK-47 assault rifle”.

The enigma surrounding his sudden transfer or, to say, promotion is equivalent to the one surrounding Sheena Bora’s case.

Apparently, Maria is being accused of his discreet interest in Bora’s case which led to a drift between him and Atul Kulkarni, Joint Commissioner of Police, Crime Branch. The latter was disgruntled at Maria’s keen interest in the case or rather the usurpation of the case which otherwise would have been in the hands of the crime branch.

Maria is known to have personally interviewed the prime accused at the Khar police station thrice. As an NDTV report said, he was also regularly holding press conferences about the case despite not having given any interview since he was made Mumbai Police chief. It is alleged that Maria is a close friend of Peter Mukerjea.

Such an excessive interest on the part of the commissioner led to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis sanctioning

Devendra Fadnavis
Devendra Fadnavis

Maria’s promotion 22 days prior to the scheduled date.”Police have shown a lot of involvement and attention in a case which is in the media spotlight. It should pay similar attention to other cases which do not get media focus,” Fadnavis was quoted as saying to the media.

“There was no hurry in transferring Maria. It would have been inappropriate to transfer him on 30 September, in the middle of the festive season as Ganapati festival, a very important event in Maharashtra would be on at that time. Therefore, we decided to advance the promotion of Maria,” said Additional Secretary Bakshi, who was appointed to inquire into Maria’s excessive interrogation in the Sheena Bora case.

The man who became a role model and whose actions were widely celebrated by Bollywood movies like ‘Black Friday’ and ‘A Wednesday’ is now being despised for taking undue interest in the case.

rakesh-maria_650x400_61441725407Maria is an experienced officer who has managed to get many criminals confess their crimes or unravel serious cases. Such a personal admission into a case like Bora’s would have surely put him into a fix. Why then did Maria do so? Was he aware of all this? Or was this a deliberate move?

There are many such questions and it is left to our imagination to treat it the way we like, as this man is now on the wrong side of interrogation table. In this age of content hungry media, Maria is set to be reduced to the trivial red and white boxed breaking news.

The officer has been replaced as Mumbai Police commissioner by senior IPS officer Javed Ahmed, who took charge on Tuesday.

 

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Indian Hospitals are using cameras, tags, lasers to curb Baby trafficking and theft

Indian hospitals are educating their staff to spot baby thieves amid fears that baby trafficking is becoming an organized crime nationwide

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Activists of Socialist Unity Center of India-Marxist (SUCI-M) protest a recent case of child trafficking in West Bengal state in Kolkata, India, Nov. 29, 2016. Officials busted a child trafficking racket and rescued more than 20 children, according to news reports
Activists of Socialist Unity Center of India-Marxist (SUCI-M) protest a recent case of child trafficking in West Bengal state in Kolkata, India, Nov. 29, 2016. Officials busted a child trafficking racket and rescued more than 20 children, according to news reports. VOA

Hospitals in India are starting to tag newborns, mothers, and medics as well as installing extra security cameras and educating staff to spot baby thieves amid fears that baby trafficking is becoming an organized crime nationwide.

Officials said this was part of a drive starting at government hospitals in southern Tamil Nadu state to ensure nurses, doctors and visitors know of the threat of babies being stolen from maternity wards and babies being sold illegally for adoption that is baby trafficking.

At the Rajaji government hospital in Madurai, the first in Tamil Nadu to introduce the program, laser beams at exit points trigger alarms if untagged adults take babies out in order to curb baby trafficking.

“We just want to prevent the theft of babies,” N.K. Mahalakshmi, the doctor in charge of laser tagging at the hospital, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “It is not fool proof but a deterrent. … Our hospital staff has also been told to be extra vigilant.”

Traffickers, officials sometimes collude

Campaigners have raised concerns that traffickers are often colluding with officials to steal babies from maternity wards and illegally sell them for adoption which is baby trafficking.

Mumbai police arrested a gang for convincing single mothers to sell their babies last year, while in West Bengal police found newborns being stolen from mothers in medical clinics after staff told them that their babies were stillborn.

Dev Ananth, a child protection officer in Tirunelveli district, said the state government is investigating several cases where hospital staff persuaded mothers to sell their babies for about 10,000 Indian rupees ($156).

Tirunelveli district will put posters up in every hospital, alerting pregnant women, families, and staff to the dangers of baby trafficking in overcrowded corridors.

“Many don’t see it as a trafficking issue,” he said.

“We are going to train hospital staff to identify potential cases, including what to do if a baby is abandoned at birth. At present, the do’s and don’ts are not clear.”

No official data on baby trafficking

There is no official data on the number of babies stolen from hospitals in Tamil Nadu, but almost 180,000 children were born in government facilities in 2016, statistics show.

More than four out of 10 of human trafficking cases in India in 2015 involved children being bought, sold and exploited as modern-day slaves, according to crime figures.

“Public hospitals are vulnerable spaces where there are no effective ways to monitor access to newborn babies,” said Paul Sunder Singh of the children’s charity Karunalaya. (VOA)