Buying children in Orissa : A valid way to focus on starvation deaths?

IN Media Practice | 01/09/2002
Buying children in Orissa : A valid way to focus on starvation deaths

Buying children in Orissa : A valid way to focus on starvation deaths?

The Hoot Desk

Did the Hindustan Times¿ purchase of two children from Bolangir benefit the children or the Hindustan Times, asks a critic. The paper¿s correspondent says, sensationalising an issue is better than not focussing on it at all.

The Hindustan Times bought two children in Bolangir, reported on September 23. It did follow up stories till the following Sunday, and through this period invited readers to support the children, and give their points of view, which it carried. The children were brought to Delhi, they were given a home by SOS Children¿s Villages, and there the matter rests. Thereafter the issue died down, HT did not carry very much more on it, nor did the rest of the press pick up this story. Unlike the Indian Express¿s purchase of Kamla, in the early eighties, HT¿s purchase of children went off the pages of the press very quickly.

The story however is not over. Reactions to the HT scoop have come from Bolangir, an FIR has been lodged by Dambaru, the uncle of the children and the man who allegedly sold them, against the reporter who allegedly bought them, and a public interest litigation has been filed by Sanjay Mishra of Vikalpa which draws attention to the sequence of events, the plight of the children in an alien environment and the damage to the sentiments of the people of Bolangir.

In response to the criticism one of the HT correspondents who worked on the story wrote, "It is not a question of an individual selling children, it¿s the way the state and the society have completely forgotten that these people exist and they need to eat, sleep and live. I don¿t mind people calling us unscrupulous if some attention is focused on Bolangir. I tried to do that myself when I was posted there but failed. If Mr Das has chosen to highlight a case to prove that the situation is really bad in Bolangir, I would support him. regarding the allegation that it distorts truth, I really don¿t think that is the case. One can probably say that we tried to
sensationalise the issue. But I frankly believe that sensationalising an issue
is better than not talking about it at all."

What is the legal position regarding removing the children and giving them to SOS villages in Delhi? In the case of another child sale in Bolangir, the man who bought the child was arrested and put in jail.

We document all sides of the issue. First the story, as it appeared, and excerpts from follow-up stories. Alongside we carry the criticism levelled by a researcher and free lance writer from Bolangir. Whereas the Hindustan Times has declined for over a week to reply to the points raised, we did get one reaction from one of the reporters on the story, which we also carry.

The story

Nation¿s shame: Starving Orissa family sells children

The Hindustan Times, September 23, 2001, Raipur

By Anand S T Das

Nothing in the world had prepared me for this. I had gone to Badagamada in Balangir as a curious journalist, but I came back as the owner of two children. Yes, reprehensible as the word

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