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Can't the government help an Indian mother in distress?

February 23, 2012 20:15 IST

In Norway, an Indian mother and father are struggling for the custody of their children taken away by a Norwegian child care agency. Nine months have passed and India has been able to do nothing, says Tarun Vijay.

This is not a horror story from the land of Idi Amin. A Western country which is democratic, cultured, pluralistic, and believes in human rights, has weaved a story that defeats any imagination of torture and child abuse.

In Norway, an Indian mother and father are struggling for the custody of their one-year-old daughter and three-year-old son, who were taken away by a Norwegian child care agency on the pretext that the biological parents were incapable of raising their kids the way they should.

As the media reported, it charged the mother Sagarika with 'negligence and unable to bring up' the children. 'A Norwegian court ruled that the two children would stay in two different foster homes until the age of 18 and their natural parents would be allowed to meet them only for an hour once a year.'

Shockingly, the court adds that only if the couple separated, could the custody of the children be given to the natural father, who has been employed as a geoscientist in Norway.

Nine months have passed. The parents and the grandparents have appealed to the Indian government, met the President of India, herself a mother, appealed to the government to talk to the Norwegian authorities including the king, and have the children returned to them, one of whom needs breastfeeding.

Nine months passed and India could do nothing.

Neither the President, nor the prime minister had time. The whole of India, rather the governance, seems to have shrunk into Uttar Pradesh, busy taking care of the first family.

The media and the channels are too engrossed taking interviews of the new destiny makers and even if they get a chance to have a brief chat with any of the royals, it's a lifetime achievement for them -- just see their faces radiant with the joy of 'having arrived' after an interview with the family finishes in the studio called democracy.

'My son is completely traumatised. He has stopped speaking. He understood what we were saying to him, but he was not replying," Mrs Bhattacharya, the mother of the children, told The Hindu.

Mrs Bhattacharya was also distressed at her one-year-old daughter Aishwarya's development. 'In India, children her age usually start eating solid food. But she cannot eat solid food as yet.'

Aishwarya is not keeping well and has chest congestion. If the government cannot help an Indian mother in distress and restore her the legitimate custody of her children, what is the use of singing paeans to Mother India? Bharat Mata Ki Jai also means respecting motherhood and doing everything possible to help mothers in distress.

Hats off to the firebrand Marxist leader Brinda Karat who has been taking a lead to help the parents and the dynamic Sushma Swaraj, whose distress calls have made the government sit up and take immediate cognisance of the issue. Still, how far have we arrived?

Count each moment the children have spent without their mother and father, count the tears of the parents who cannot see their children pass through their most exciting age, when every parent tries to record their little angels growing up -- the first steps, the first bite of solid food, watch them graduate to larger size frocks and shirts, see them on their first three wheeled cycle, the joy of taking them to the zoo and nights spent taking care when they fall sick...

If Norway has denied the kids of the joy of being with their natural parents, India has not proved a good state for its children either.

The UPA government's disgraceful inability in getting the children from the insensitive Norwegian authorities has added another episode in its long list of failures.

The government should have done better to send a Cabinet minister to Norway to reunite the children with their parents, who were allowed, shockingly, just an hour to meet their distraught parents after months of indescribable pain of separation.

If the Indian government cannot help common Indians in such trying times of their life, would they go to a foreign land for seeking justice?

While we are witnessing a family drama in the UP elections, none of the so-called family members have found it fit to speak for the Indian parents being emotionally tortured in Norway for the last nine months.

The government must make the international community aware of this incident and create world opinion against the Norwegian authorities.

Tarun Vijay is a Bharatiya Janata Party member of the Rajya Sabha. The views expressed are his own.

Tarun Vijay